God bothering fewer Australians

Christian church leaders, elders, and others have been in damage control since the census figures came out last week showing Christianity falling to 44 per cent and no religion rising to 39 per cent.

They sounded like a whole lot of executives and apologists for the tobacco industry hiding the truth with propaganda, fuzzing the facts to deny that lung cancer was the inevitable consequence of the product. Except this time, it was child abuse and abuse of authority, not lung cancer.

Just as people have woken up to the harm of tobacco, so, too, they are waking up to the harm of organised religion. And the consumption of both have plummeted.

All of the hand-wringing about the need for religions to acknowledge that they have done terrible things and to reform to attract people back to religion, is a misguided waste of time. The product is as flawed as tobacco.

You cannot suck in the nicotine and get a feel-good without a price. It is a con. You cannot suck in religion, follow the leaders, and pay the organisers a tithe in return for everlasting life. It is a con.

Yes, religious people do a lot of good works, but, they could do them despite their religion not because of it.

There is an enormous Catch-22 here which goes back to the Reformation. Martin Luther and others correctly railed against the hypocrisy and veniality of the 16th century Catholic Church. They protested against the idea that rich people could pay for good works to be done in their name and for masses to be said for them and that that would guarantee them a place for them in heaven.

They protested against the nepotism and opulence of the 16 th century church.

Luther and the Protestants rejected the need for a priest and/or a saint (defined by the church) to intercede for them in order to gain salvation. A human and conscience stood alone. 

But Luther also said that, as there is an all-good and all-powerful God, there are no good works except those which God has commanded. So, under his religious precepts, the good works are not even human-generated. They are pre-ordained by God.

The Protestants then tangled themselves up logically. Human experience told them that they needed people to exercise their free will to do good works (especially within the organised religion which could hardly survive without them). But if they taught that God is all good and all powerful then that God must determine what happens, not the free will that organised religion wants people to exercise to choose their religion and to choose to do good works within it for its greater glory, propagation and survival.

Faced with that contradiction they retreated into the slogan of “God works in mysterious ways”, telling followers not to try to apply reason and common sense to something which does not bear the scrutiny of reason and common sense. 

The “mysterious ways” nonsense has people praying to the all-powerful, all-good God to relieve them from the suffering of Covid, gun deaths in the US and the wars in Ukraine and elsewhere. But that would be the same all-powerful god that permitted the virus, guns and war in the first place.

“Mysterious ways” and “God’s will” excuse humans from not acting to cure the ills of society, which they should do because it is the morally right thing to do, not because a religion ordains it.

God does not work in mysterious ways because he (and of course an all-powerful alpha male has to be a he) does not exist except as a human construct.

It has taken a while, but 40 per cent of Australians – and everywhere else in Europe and the Anglosphere outside the US – which was founded by religiously predisposed people fleeing persecution – have called Christianity out for the con-trick it is. That number is growing. Muslims and Hindus cannot be far behind.

The census shows that an inexorably rising percentage of people no longer accept the very dubious trade off of submitting to temporal religious authority and giving large sums of money to it in return for ever-lasting life after death.

Kerry Packer’s approach to life might have been found wanting but his approach to death was not. He said after a heart attack left him clinically dead for six minutes in 1990, “I’ve been to the other side, mate, and there’s nothing there.”

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but the afterlife is not.

Where do we go from here? Well, not putting filters or sweeteners on the flawed product would be a start. Then we should wind back all the special privileges religion has in our society, especially government funding of religious schools.

That began in 1962 when the government ordered an over-crowded Catholic school to build more toilets. The Bishop of Goulburn’s response was to close six Catholic schools and inundate the state schools.

He made a point, but the Government’s response was wrong. It gave the bishop money to build toilets. It should have just built more government schools.

Now we have the obscene position of private, mainly religious, schools wallowing money they do not need for education while state schools are starved, resulting in an overall lowering of educational standards because too much government education money is wasted on swimming pools, concert halls and chapels. (The government money is not allowed to be spent directly on those things, but it frees up money for the schools to spend on those things.)

The tax concessions for religions should be curtailed. Only identifiable charitable things should attract concessions. And the propagation of religion should not be one.

Church people have been calling for reform of churches in the wake of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the calls have increased since the census figures came out revealing so many people think that religion is beyond reform.

Besides, Christianity had one crack at reform in the 16 th century and that did not work out too well – often going up in flames.

Crispin Hull 

This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Australian media on 5 July 2022.

8 thoughts on “God bothering fewer Australians”

  1. Danny M’s comment is ignorant of both journalism and democracy. Crispin Hull’s “hate speech”? Hardly. A differing opinion of secular public policy isn’t ‘hate speech’.

    Modern democracies are built on the ashes of European ‘Wars of Religion’ after which separation of church and state was a compromise to protect people of religion from each other — not to oppress them.

    Some religious people seem ignorant of democratic debate.
    Are theocratic dictatorships perhaps more to their taste?

    And finally, spare us the red herrings. ‘Atheist’ regimes of the 20th and 21st centuries are strangely full of religious iconography, symbolism, justifications…and collaborators.

    Where would Putin be now, without official Church support?

  2. How does the Canberra times allow this hate speech?? That’s appalling. Crispin Hull should be held accountable for publishing this hate against Christians.

  3. Ignorant author who knows nothing about Catholicism, the Reformation or theology. Smug in the number of non-believers. Will he just as smug when his new world order proves to be another failure such as we saw with atheist regimes in the 20th century?

  4. It was the luck of the great Chocolate Wheel of History. The United States was founded by the Puritans, but Australia was founded by the convicts; who were a mix of the very good (eg Irish rebels) and the very dregs of the urban slums of Britain and the hulks on her rivers.
    I am reminded of this every time I drop in for curiosity’s sake on Sky News. Occasionally I find there something of interest amidst the rants of its talking heads against mainstream science, and against climatology in particular. But as soon as I tire of that, I can move one channel down on my TV to the Rev Jimmy Swaggart and his round-the-clock mixture of musical God-bothering and fund-raising for his most impressive family business enterprise, which fronts as an online church.
    Some of it is quite entertaining. See https://www.jsm.org/
    Also: “Sexual scandals involving prostitutes in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to the Assemblies of God removing Swaggart’s rights to exercise the functions associated with being a spiritual leader, and also caused him to temporarily step down as the head of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. Today, he continues to rebuild from the scandal. His Jimmy Swaggart Telecast and his Study in the Word programs are broadcast through the US on 78 channels and in 104 countries.”
    Now there is either a God, or there ain’t. But every time I see Swaggart and the horde of other American preachers I feel like giving thanks to that Great Unknown for having spared us the fate of America. Where the Founder Effect landed the modern US with its horde of Swaggarts, the most prominent Christian in Colonial Australia was the Rev. Samuel Marsden, aka ‘The Flogging Parson.’ He did more to turn the population-at-large off religion than any vampire bat straight out of Hell could have ever done, or for that matter, all of them put together.
    So I say: ‘Let us all give thanks.! And Praise be to the Great Chocolate Wheel.’

  5. Days before defeat, Morrison was still promising his “oppressed” group extra powers to target gay and trans, plus Canberra would never have assisted dying.

    Despite the SSM result, 21st century LibLab has expanded the Christians’ lucrative concessions. But they always want more, and we must ever be vigilant. This extremism is not at the fringe – it’s as close as Archbishops Raffel and Fisher.

  6. Does not the political Party system not mimic the God story in many ways? The Nazi and Leninist/Maoist Communist Parties certainly do, especially when complemented by cults of personality. But I sometimes wonder whether notionally democratic Parties, complemented by Presidentialism don’t harbour similarly tendencies when they claim that the Party knows best.

    And thus we have declining Party membership and Party allegiance. Yea for Independents and the demand for transparency and accountability from those we choose to represent us. Hopefully when the first ALP Minister betrays our trust and expectations, Albanese will be quick to hold him or her accountable, thereby beginning to restore and earn our trust snd faith.

  7. A wonderful pithy piece, Crispin. I congratulate you. It ought to be tacked up on every church wall, and on every church school wall. And on all walls near such edifices.
    Best regards,

  8. Churches and States need to be separate but leaders of each see too much advantage in using one to succeed in the other. Where does this lead? Well, one could look at the current US or Iran for examples. In recent history there is the division of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
    One note I will make on your article is the oversight of British history. Henry VIII broke away from Rome under the banner of Reformation. He targeted Abbeys (taxes and Treasuries), his wives and his aristocracy. He targeted wealth and power over religion. Religion was then used during the Victorian era’s colonialism from Ireland to the Americas and Australia.
    In Ireland and Australia education was withheld from Catholics. Employment, too, was often divided on religious lines through the mid 20th C. In turn this all led to the DLP split from the ALP along with Menzies funding Catholic schools. Religion and politics shouldn’t mix.

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