A curious oddity in contemporary Australian society is the simultaneous flight from religious identification and flocking to religious schools. Earlier today the Sydney Morning Herald reported that, even though we’re one of the least religious nations in the world and becoming even more so, paradoxically “we have this large and increasing attendance of children in religious schools.''
The Costs/Benefits of School Choises
Why is it so? It was suggested that many Australian parents based their education decisions on a cost-benefit analysis, finding that their reservations about religious education, while certainly there, were outweighed by their positive perceptions of the reputation, discipline, culture, facilities and academic standards of religious schools. I would have to agree with this assessment given my own experience with parents commenting on available schooling choices.
The Costs/Benefits of Volunteer Teaching
This is all the more fascinating given the way secular ethics classes, despite the demand from parents, have been struggling to find enough volunteers and donations to teach the curriculum in the secular school system. Despite their numbers, the “nones” have struggled to develop a volunteering culture where ethics classes are concerned. Could it be that Australians are struggling to have their irreligious cake and eat it?
The Deeper Costs of Different Convictions
I remember a criticism from Friedrich Nietzsche that many of his fellow Atheists failed to take their convictions to their logical conclusion, that Christian values could not be sustained without Christian foundations. It would seem that in Australian society, religious values are still valued to a certain extent even if their underpinnings are not. Everyone wants their child to have ethics taught to their children by volunteers, but it’s mostly religious folk who do the volunteering. Australians like picking the fruits, even when they don’t like watering the roots.
All this reinforces my perception that Australians are not anti-religious per se, just anti-intense religiousity, prefering laid back spirituality. It will be interesting to see how this plays out longer term.