Census data show that most Australians claim a link with a religion. The majority are Christians, with the largest fraction (a little under thirty per cent) being Catholic. The next fraction lumps all the rest as Protestants (these lost the prime spot over the last decade or so, thanks to immigration, primarily). Then there are Moslems, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of Yoga and Sai Baba (many of these are Christian too), and others. The bulk of the Buddhists may be white Aussies, as are most of the members of the Yoga and Sai Baba groups. Attendance at regular prayer meetings would appear to be in inverse order to the extent of community support …
Non-attendance at a prayer meeting is, of course, no measure of a person’s spirituality. Spirituality can be reflected in acts of charity (or aid) … When my wife spearheaded collections for overseas disasters in our local schools the response was impressive. When I worked for an overseas aid organisation, I saw not only an increasing awareness of Australia’s willingness to assist those in such terrible need overseas, but also an encouraging shift within the community support groups – the middle class gradually giving way to students and other lower-income groups.
Spirituality is essentially a reverence for our Creator and respect for his creations. When articulated, formalised and institutionalised, it becomes religiosity, and is reflected in religious observances. One can reject religious practices and overt conformity because the institution is seen as irrelevant … or not acceptable. … (reportedly) the head of the Australian Catholic Church refused to participate in a commemorative ANZAC ceremony recently because he was not granted precedence …
Of course, there were no headlines about this in the local press (there were in New Zealand), unlike the gossipy, opinion-forming ones associated with politics. When academics write learnedly of aspects of Australian culture, there is little or no reference to the culture of control (whether by priests or by foreigners); or the culture of containing free speech and free association. They would rather write on such important matters as festivals, changes in workplace cultures, the multiculturalism of soccer clubs, and such like. There is also little reference to the culture of conflict based on faith (and ethnic origins) … they should pay attention to Jefferson’s “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Giving away religious practices does not in the least indicate a diminution of spirituality. I doubt if the Dutch or the Aussies are less spiritual than they used to be because they attend church less or are less fecund. The Aussie young, … are already leading the way to spiritual independence. Geographical boundaries, differences in ethnic origins, skin colour, accents, and cultural (including religious) practices are relatively irrelevant to increasing numbers of young Aussies, who have grown up with an increasing cultural diversity in their immediate background – as in Malaysia and Singapore. The melting-pot is taking effect.
One would expect, as the Upanishads say, that priests would offer a selfless service and not participate in petty power play. One might also recall Bishop Fulton Sheen’s comment that hundreds of millions of the poor “would gladly take the vow of poverty if they could eat, dress, and have a home like myself and many of those who profess the vow of poverty.” I would say, borrowing from Roosevelt, “beware of that small group of egoist men who would clip the wings of the Creator in order to feather their own nest.”
In time, there should be a majority of independent spiritual people in Australia. Priestly divide-and-rule policies and practices will be challenged and changed. History has already shown how powerful leaders, empires and colonies have withered away. Vast areas of earth have been subject to changes in faith. No faith, no imperialistic nation, no leader, can claim a monopoly for long; ask the Indians, the Chinese, Persians, the Turkic peoples, the Mongols, and the European powers of yesteryear.
Freedom has a habit of resurgence. “Go, see on the Tablet how the Master of Fate has written what will be, before time began” (Khayyám).
(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out,’ especially the last sentence above, say it all. My intention in writing as I have is to speak of freedom, of the ‘brotherhood’ – no gender implications – of Mankind, and the bonds of co-creation, in the name of our Creator. The moral purification of our souls, our essential selves, through time, requires free will.)