Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Is the Pope coming to a desert Island?

Well we know Australia is a desert island geographically, and rapidly becoming more so. Now comes the confirmation that we are spiritually as well. Do you suppose that there might be a connection between the two things?

Country comparisons of religious sentiment

A survey of 21,000 people conducted recently by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that only 25% of Australians claim to be deeply religious - and more (28%) aren't religious at all.

As a result, we are down near the bottom of the pack of the 21 countries surveyed, with results in line with the spiritual wasteland that is Western Europe. We come in a million miles behind the US, where 62% of respondents claimed to be deeply religious.

Moreover, while two-thirds of Australians claim a religion, only half think it plays an important role in their lives.

A lot of it is pretty unsurprising, and it is pretty depressing stuff. Let's hope Wordl Youth Day can provide a catalyst to turning some of it around.

The key results

The survey found that about a half of Australians never even pray, let alone darken the door of a church (or other religious edifice).

It confirms that a very high proportion of Catholics outright reject religion as an influence when it comes to sex and politics.

And it shows that only 37% of Catholics claim to be deeply religious,with a further 52% moderately religious.

For Australians, religion, at 30%, is far less important in our daily lives than family (95% rated this very important), education (85%), spouses/partners (74%), or even politics (37%). In fact, religion really only seems to come into play when it comes to selecting a school (54%) or when getting married, having a child baptised or dying (60%).

Women are twice as likely to take religoin seriously as men.

A few counter-intuitive results though...

One rather odd result was that religion was rated very important or important in terms of how we treat nature and tackle life crises by 56% of respondents. Perhaps this indicates high levels of adherence to the new religion of environmentalism?

The other curiosity is that although there is a big divide between those aged over 60 (40% deeply religious) and under 60s (19-23%), there is no significant difference in the likelihood of being religious between 18-29 year olds and those aged 30-59. And young people are actually interested in finding out about religion. So at least things aren't getting any worse, and there is hope.

Stereotypes of denominations remain intact

Charismatics and Pentecostalists, unsurprisingly, are more devout than Catholics, with around 50% claiming to be deeply religious, compared to our pathetic 37%.

The only good news is that we can still sneer at the Anglicans, only 30% of whom are deeply religious, and of whom one in five doesn't actually believe in God, and claims the label for purely social reasons. When asked what feelings they associated with God, while everyone else talked about things like hope, happiness, gratitude and strength, Anglicans' fifth ranked thought was despair!

Anglicans come home.....

Perhaps this captured the Anglo-Catholic reaction to the recent female bishop appointments in Australia, which has now been followed by the UK?!

I gather yesterday the Church of England firmly rejected the 'traditionalist' opt out position, and supported women bishops, bringing the threat of a thousand or so bishops and priests leaving the Church of England a step closer. I don't think however that we should expect to see hardline evangelical ringleader Archbishop Jensen of Sydney beating down the Pope's door any time soon however, not withstanding his alignment with many catholic moral views!

In any case, let's pray for a new Pentecost with the Pope's visit, because we sure need it.

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