American, Australian “nones” endure faith’s intrusions
Blogger’s note: Although most of my blog posts have been relatively long to this point, I’m going to start submitting occasional shorter posts, starting with this one, about topics that just require a quick introduction and not extensive discussion. As always, comments are welcome.
We Americans tend to be inward-looking as a nation, not fully comprehending how people elsewhere view the world far differently than we do—or sometimes very much the same, as I point out in this post.
In the United States, where more than 70 percent of the population is Christian, most of us tend to be a little clueless about how fully the faith suffuses our democracy, despite a Constitution that was purposefully created to avoid that. So, nonreligious Americans are constantly annoyed by how religion, largely Christianity in this country, is subtly and not-so-subtly insinuated throughout American life and government. I’d wager most Americans don’t even notice it.
But it’s not just an American thing.
Apparently, Australia, a strong secular democracy and longtime close ally of the U.S., also struggles with church-state-separation conflicts. Australian Karhleen Heyne, whose Twitter handle is “sushisnake,” recently commented on my guest post on the Patheos Secular Spectrum group blog, titled “God Adorns South Dakota State Seal. Our Founding Fathers Would Rage.” I post her comment in full below because it reflects how uncannily similar the situation is in both our countries (Heyne’s comment is displayed in comments below the article online):
“[legally prescribing God’s presence on a government seal is] exclusionary and divisive. Deliberately so. The more time goes by and the more damage the Christian Right do or try to do, here in Australia or there in the States, the more apparent that’s becoming to me.
“Australia’s a multicultural country – quite a successful one. We have all different races, religions and creeds. Yet our Federal Parliament opens each sitting session with the Lord’s Prayer- the Church of England version. What does that say about the representation everyone who isn’t a Church of England Christian is receiving from our parliament? Ironically, Catholicism is largest Christian religion here. How do the Catholics feel? How does it make new Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist immigrants feel? Australia’s also a very secular country. We’re following the EU in irreligiosity. The nones (no-religion) were the largest “religious” group in the 2016 Census after growing in numbers for decades, so why are ANY kinds of prayers being said in our parliament at all?
“I don’t see how the government of any democratic country or state that claims to be multicultural and welcoming of new citizens from other countries, cultures and religions can think it’s acceptable to do this sort of thing anymore. It’s antisocial. Either they publicly observe each and every religion and sect in their country and say all of their prayers, one by one, including a statement acknowledging the nones, even if it takes them a week, or they observe none of them, leave religion out of it altogether and govern like the modern secular democracy we expect them to be …”