Ethics & Religion

The truth by the numbers: Religion in Australian society

RSA Fellow Neil Francis is producing a multi-part study for the Rationalist Society: Religiosity in Australia. The first installment, Part 1 – Personal faith according to the numbers, is a very nice piece of work. It deserves to be closely read by members of the Rationalist Society and anyone else who can be induced to take the time to give it their attention. My task in this column is simply to offer a summary introduction to it and a few brief pointers.

The report provides a deeply revealing analysis of how many Australians profess religious belief of any kind, how the numbers of believers are changing, what such belief entails in terms of religious practice and the bearing of religious belief and practice on attitudes towards major questions of social good and public policy. It shows that there is, in the author's words: "...a much smaller and softer base of religiosity than headline affiliation statistics imply, a rapidly growing rate of no religion, lack of certainty of religious belief, connections between religiosity and a focus on financial issues, and majority social opinions – even amongst the religious – at odds with the vocal pronouncements of conservative clerics."

This takes a little absorbing. It means that, in purely empirical terms, we are living in a society in which religions continue to exist, but the number of their committed practitioners is in clear decline and the social attitudes, even of believers, are often starkly at odds with the public clai...

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About Paul Monk

Dr Paul Monk is a public intellectual, poet, former senior intelligence analyst and consultant in applied cognitive science. He is the author of a dozen books, including 'The West in a Nutshell: Foundations, Fragilities, Futures' (2009), 'Dictators and Dangerous Ideas' (2018), his breakout book of poetry 'The Three Graces: Companionship, Discretion, Passion' (2022) and 'Thunder From the Silent Zone: Rethinking China' (2nd updated edition 2023). He is a fellow of the Institute for Law and Strategy (London and New York) and a fellow of the Rationalist Society of Australia.