However secularism grew out of post-Christian Europe and is therefore laced with Christian values. For example, Wooley’s attempt to separate public life and private belief may make sense in post-Christian secular Australia but other religions, such as Judaism and Islam who don’t have the same distinction, it is nonsense.Wooley’s suggestion that these people should be free to follow their own beliefs, but should not bring those beliefs into politics and impose them on others, is hypocritical. The very thing he disqualifies for others he does himself. By arguing that “politicians should try to keep religion out of politics”, he is imposing his beliefs upon on others.
And what are his reasons? It is “annoying” and “looks stupid”.
In a world where radical Islam is on the rise and where people are prepared to kill for their religious beliefs, the reality is religion already has a place in political debate. To suggest it shouldn’t is misguided. What is more, a suicide bomber cares little if others thinkhe/she is “annoying” or “looks stupid”. The views of others are not a deterrent.
Even one of Australia’s most published critics of Christianity, Professor Marion Maddox of Macquarie University, author of God Under Howard and Taking God to School, is adamant, “Far from wanting less religion in politics,” she writes, “we need more … If our leaders identify, and still more if they merely hint at, a religious dimension to their stances on such matters as teen pregnancy, abortion, environmental protection, refugees, industrial relations or tax, we are entitled – indeed, obliged – to ask what that dimension is.” Despite her critique of religion, Maddox clearly advocates that “Religion should be treated as a more normal part of the political discussion.” This is surely what the writers of our Constitution intended.
In a world where people are willing to kill others in the name of their religion, no matter how misguided and extreme, it is time not to banish religion from the public square, but have the debate out in the open for all to engage. After all, that is what democracy is all about.
Stephen L Baxter