What is secularism? Secularism is the belief that religion should not interfere with or be integrated into the public affairs of a society. Oxford dictionary defines “secular” as “concerned with the affairs of the world, not religious or spiritual” so in this sense all civil government is “secular”. The only civil governments that are not fully secular in this sense are Vatican City and some fundamentalist Moslem states. The governments of all the major countries in the world – including Australia, the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand, Italy, India, etc are all secular governments.
There are multiple factors which have contributed to the decline of religion’s relevance for the integration and legitimation of modern life. The increasing pluralism and materialism of society alongside society’s increasing individualism and dissatisfaction with traditional religions are major reasons for secularisation. This trend is most evident in the significant increase in the number of people responding “No religion” in the census alongside an overall decline in the Christian figures recorded in the census Interfaith Dialogue and growing secularism.
Since World War II, Australia’s population has grown and become more diverse and Australians have become more secular in nature. Secularists believe that people are comfortable without the reference to God in their lives. There are a number of reasons for the increase in secularism in Australia; these include increasing pluralism i. e. the acceptance of all religions as equal; individualism and materialism – spirituality may be overlooked when power, looks, possessions and fame are offered instead. What Impact did Secularism have on the Religious landscape of Australia post 1945?
Effects of secularism •Loss of religious values. •Lack of religious church practice – civil marriages, non religious funerals, shopping malls (the new cathedrals) •Seeking alternative “religions” or “forms of spirituality”. •Social standing of clergy/church – trustworthiness •Political social action – Marxism, Green Movement etc. •Influence of scientific humanism, economic rationalism •Rise of New Age Religions which focus on personal satisfaction, wealth, self help groups, happiness, mind and spirit exhibitions, personal meditation, affirmation environmental “sit – ins”. These have all attained quasi religious status.