It was widely reported last week that the number of atheists in Australia had increased by an amazing 45 percent in just five years.
Jennifer Oriel, above, a columnist for The Australian, was appalled by the rise, which took place between the Australian census of 2011 and the one in 2016.
Australia was created as a nation under God. Soon, it will fall. In the latest census, only 52 per cent of the population identified as Christian. Atheist groups are celebrating the decline of Christianity and the prospect of a nation without God, while cultural relativists are heralding a brave new world of multiculturalism.
She said that the Atheist Foundation of Australia must shoulder some the blame for the result because it had campaigned for people to mark “no religion” on the census.
Despite Christianity being the leading religion in Australia, ‘no religion’ was ranked first on the list of possible responses to the religious affiliation question.
She went on:
Across the West, governments are withdrawing funding for Christian groups while activist networks intensify the war of attrition against the faithful by means of propaganda and lawsuits. Religious freedom exists in the 21st century West, but the cost imposed on Christians who exercise it can be prohibitive. In the education sector, the media and even the military, there is advocacy against Christianity. The anti-Christian position is invariably couched in the language of diversity, inclusion and minority rights.
The most aggressive displays of intolerance towards Christians sometimes come draped in the rainbow flag. Queer activists have participated in violent protests against advocates for heterosexual marriage. Some have joined with civil liberties groups to deny Christians freedom from PC tyranny by suing small business owners that won’t sanction gay marriage.
More recently, big business has entered the fray by denouncing conservative governments that uphold democratic processes such as the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage. We used to have a name for a corporate politics that subverts democracy by throwing cash at politicians: fascism.
Oriel’s blather is hidden by a paywall. But there’s a pretty lively debate on her column on the paper’s Facebook page, with people saying things like:
Sorry, but that claim is from America. That country WAS created as a nation under God. Australia was not. It is a secular society and always has been. Freedom of religion is the plank we have always operated on, and that is what is being eroded now. Let’s stop with the misconceptions and the prejudice.
Rubbish, paranoid superstition has no place in our society. Australia has moved on along the path to being a truly secular nation, nothing wrong with that. Religion is still practised freely here, nothing wrong with that either, we just don’t want it as a dominant factor in our lives. Keep it at home, out of schools and government and we’ll all get along fine.
Australian society and the values we cherish are the fruits of a civilisation built on the word of Christ. To state such a truth is to invite ridicule. We are supposed to attribute the virtues of the modern free world largely to science, technology or the Enlightenment. Our righteous anger about the horrific sexual abuse of children by priests increases the temptation to ignore the decline of the church.
But our understandable anger about ordained pedophiles and those who shield them should not blind us to the extraordinary promise of Judaeo-Christianity. It has given us inherent human worth, dignity, equality, freedom, secular statehood and liberal democracy.
Enter Bernard Salt, also a columnist for the Australian. In this piece, he writes:
The rise of atheism speaks to a powerful cultural truth about the Australian people. On the one hand it can be argued that we are evolving as a godless and self-centred people more concerned about our quality of life rather than eternal salvation. But it also can be argued that many Australians are turning away from the Christian churches in particular as a consequence of revelations about child abuse by clergy. Indeed there is no doubt some truth in both of these views.
But there is another perspective. And that is that the religious allegiance declared by many in past censuses was meaningless. We ticked the box that said we were Catholic or Anglican or Uniting but this didn’t mean anything. We did not go to church or identify with any particular religious affiliation, not even when we filled out paperwork for hospital day procedures.
Finally there is relief, there is honesty, there is a break with the religious affiliations of our youth and now in this decade the Australian people are finally being set free. In many ways, and without wishing to at all appear disrespectful, this is a cultural awakening of a repressed people, as opposed to an oppressed people, that acknowledges where our true values lie.
The rise of godlessness, for that is what it is, has found resonance in every part of the nation and across all age groups. The number of atheists 65 and older (600,000) is double the number at the beginning of the decade. It’s not just the young and the healthy who are turning away from the Almighty; it’s ageing, fast-fading, baby boomers who increasingly are mindful of what may, or what may not, lie beyond the great abyss.
The only way to fully explain the strength of the rise of this heathenism is that for many this is a philosophical realisation that at our core we are not believers, let alone true believers.
If ever there were a place on the Australian continent that might attract the freethinking and the godless it would be Byron Bay in NSW, right? And you would indeed be right. At the 2016 census just 44 per cent of Byron’s population were believers, down from 59 per cent just five years earlier. Byron’s believers are losing market share at a rate of almost three percentage points a year. At this rate by 2030 Byron will be completely and utterly godless.