Now that the religious freedom report has been released, along with the government’s response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been out spruiking his planned religious discrimination bill, a draft of which will be released soon. He stated this will be a focal point for the ongoing debate about religious liberty1. This is a solution without a problem. You can walk around most large Australian cities and see churches of most Christian sects, mosques, temples, and all sorts of other places of worship for just about every religious group in the nation. How this could be construed as a lack of religious freedom is beyond me.
Morrison said: “For those who think that Australians of religious faith don’t feel the walls have been closing in on them for a while, they’re clearly not talking to many people in religious communities or multicultural communities in Australia”1. So, it is the perception of the walls closing in that concerns the religious. Is that perception real? No, not in the sense of any religious discrimination. It is just political spin to be used at the next election. The same sort of spin used to be trotted out by (usually conservative) politicians with regard to ‘Law and Order’, when facing elections. Politicians used to say that people felt threatened in their homes; felt unable to walk in certain areas of cities, but this was a lie, as most crime is decreasing in Australia2. Politicians would use that dose of spin to suggest there was an increased danger, when there wasn’t. This religious freedom confection is similarly being used by conservatives to frighten people into believing their right to believe in their god or gods is at risk. This lie is solely to attempt to harvest their vote in the next federal election.
It happens that Australia is becoming less religious, and that trend is accelerating3. That is not because of any pogroms against any particular religious group, but because people are starting to realise that religious groups have generally behaved appallingly: Catholic and other priests perpetrating and covering up the most egregious crimes against children; Pentecostals more concerned with money than with the teachings of Jesus; Muslims and Jews indulging in genital mutilation; murder by many religions of those perceived to be not following a particular religion’s precepts; and bigotry against those who have different sexuality. All these have been going on for millennia, so what has changed now? These topics are coming out into the open, whereas in the past, if ever spoken about, it was in hushed tones behind closed church doors. Many in the general populace are now talking about them, whereas they never used to do so. The uncovered behaviour of religious organisations is being brought out into the open and sunlight is a great antiseptic. The religious are losing their ability to keep things quiet, as well as their influence in society, and that is what most terrifies them. The walls are not closing in on the religious; they are being demolished by the religious from within.