by Greg Spearritt
In the wake of Christopher Hitchens’s visit to Oz, and more especially in the lead-up to the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne next March, the argument about whether religion is society’s saviour or its nemesis is likely to hit our shores with renewed vigour.
So is religion good or bad on balance? In a poll of SoFiA members at the recent Toowoomba Conference the results were pretty even: 26% saw religion as a force for good, 21% as a force for evil and 53% felt it was neutral.
If you go through the whole book the general message is that religion in Australia is fairly benign. Most of the things the religions do here are socially desirable and relatively benign.
(Jupp, by the way, says he is “not a person of faith”, though he won’t lay claim to being an atheist either. Phillip Adams has recently interviewed Jupp and two other contributors about The Encyclopedia of Religion In Australia.)
There is, surely, no objective way of judging the question. ‘Religion’ is far too broad a category to say anything much that is coherent about its virtues or vices. Personal experience counts for a lot in this debate, and evidence heavily skewed to a sample of one just doesn’t stack up in the reasoned argument stakes.