TUMBY BAY – I don’t go to church on Sundays. Instead, I religiously watch Insiders on ABC television.
The ABC tries very hard to give a sensible and balanced view on the subjects it presents. Insiders is a weekly summary of mainly political events affecting Australia.
It’s long-time convenor and host, Barrie Cassidy, is one of the straightest and most sensible journalists in the ABC stable.
If you want to cut through the spin and rhetoric surrounding Australian politics I recommend you watch Insiders. You won’t hear words like ‘amazing’ and ‘absolutely’ or phrases like ‘Oh, My God!’ on Insiders.
Barrie’s guest commentators are drawn from both the left and right and are the cream of the crop. They are experienced journalists at the top of their game.
On Sunday morning one of Barrie’s guests, Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny, observed that politicians in Australia, no matter their party allegiances, tend to be naturally conservative and “churchy” types.
Mark said this while trying to explain why our politicians always seem to trail way behind public sentiment on issues.
He pointed out that while over 80% of Australian’s favoured same-sex marriage the politicians had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light to vote for it. He also said their tardiness is why euthanasia is not yet legal Australia wide, despite it having majority public support.
The “churchy” aspect of his comment got me thinking.
I’m not religious but I’m perfectly happy to let those who are religious live their lives as they wish.
The only aspects of religion I deplore are the political and organised arms that use power, money and sex to their advantage.
However, it does occur to me that if you go beyond the simple concepts of goodness and buy the products that most religions peddle - predestination and everlasting life - you risk placing yourself in a kind of intellectual void.
If you believe that what you do in your life has been predetermined by some sort of overarching supreme power you are, I would imagine, much less likely to be inquisitive and adventurous.
If it’s going to happen anyway why spend time thinking about it?
The same sort of argument can be made about the carrot of everlasting life that most religions dangle in front of their adherents.
If you sit still, don’t make too much noise, do what you are told, cough up a bit of money for the church and maybe go to war occasionally against your religious opponents you are guaranteed eternal happiness.
If this is the case, why would you bother doing anything else? Why would you bother worrying too much about your life on earth and the people around you if that was your ultimate destination?
Both the prime minister of Australia and the opposition leader profess to believe in god. Malcolm Turnbull is a Catholic convert and Bill Shorten is an ex-Catholic turned Anglican.
Many members of both the government and the opposition profess to being religious, mostly Christians but with a smattering of Muslims and other faiths.
I’m not sure that inspires me with great confidence in the political class.
They do, however, seem to be able to openly supress their religious inclinations. This is not true in places like Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific.
There, religion is front and centre. To remind us we have scenes like chainsaws being taken to traditional ‘heathen’ carvings over the doors of parliament house and battered old bibles of questionable provenance being carried solemnly around on biers as if they were living and breathing entities of supreme majesty.
That the prime minister allowed this to happen is very instructive. He either believes in it or he knows that it’s best not to upset the religious zealots in the house.
I don’t know what Peter O’Neill believes but I suspect it is whatever is best for Peter O’Neill and whether there is any profit in it.
It occurred to me a long time ago that many politicians who proclaim their faith are actually liars and hypocrites who simply see a political advantage in it.
After Mark Kenny’s remarks I’m not sure this is the case. We might carry on about the separation of the church and state but is that really the case? Do our politicians really leave their faith at the door when they go into parliament? I think not.
It might actually be that church and state in Australia, and especially in Papua New Guinea, are one in the same thing.