PNG politicians have differing views on benefits of APEC
Worthy Alone

I don’t go to church on Sundays - I go to media

Phil Fitzpatrick at mic
Phil Fitzpatrick - "many politicians who proclaim their faith are actually liars and hypocrites"


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.


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Bernard Corden

I can recall a minister in the Canadian parliament who claimed that he spent the first few months how he reached such dizzy heights and the remainder of his tenure wondering how his colleagues got there.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It seems like the ‘churchy types’ are on the brink of ascendancy in Canberra as we speak.

Instead of foreign aid to PNG we might soon be back to sending missionaries.

Another interesting aspect is the way ‘celebrity’ is taking the place of religion as the ‘opiate of the masses’.

Don't believe me. Why then is a reality TV star currently the head of the free world?

Paul Oates

Good topic Phil. Let’s open it up a tad more.

The church and state were virtually synonymous in the Middle Ages prior to the Reformation, since the political state, namely the Catholic popes and Medieval kings maintained they had been appointed by god and therefore could be relied upon to do god’s work and enunciate god’s holy words. In this they were supported by the Catholic church and the papal authority of the day who also benefited financially through taxes and tithes and occasionally selling bishoprics to whoever had the wherewithal to apply. One only has to visit Europe to see how the church allowed its leaders to virtually live like kings and decide who be favoured and who could and might be burned at the stake for example.

If this scenario seems like a fairly biased view, let me say that I believe the original message being conveyed had very little to do with the pomp and ceremony of the established church and trappings of even the modern state. Perhaps Lenin was not far wrong when he deprecatingly referred to religion as the ‘opiate of the mases’?

The original Christian message, being in mind Jesus was never a Christian but a Jew, and which has suffered through multiple translations from Aramaic, Greek, Latin and various versions of English, was simply to be compassionate towards your fellow humans and live in a respectful and law abiding way. Many of our modern laws are thanks to this concept.

The essence of the original message was enunciated in the concept of spirituality and conveyed by the example of the wind, ‘It exists and you see its effects but you cannot see the wind itself’.

This could be said to be a very reasonable view for humanity if it hadn’t been corrupted by those who sought to warp its simplicity for their own ends. If the message had to be simplified and personified in order for the layman to understand it imperfectly, then presumably that was what happened.

Reading about the era when the Crusades were operating it seems fairly clear that in order to convince those doubters who needed some sort of material proof that they were following the proper path, miraculous examples were touted around such as ‘a piece of the original cross’ or a ‘bone of some saint or apostle’ as if that would ensure whoever possessed this material artifact had some claim to be better than someone who didn’t. Thousands and millions have died believing in these treasures when the original message, we are told, was to concentrate on the spiritual and forget about the material. It obviously was useful and convenient for those who then confused the two to be able to use this morphed ideology for their own personal ends.

So we arrive at the point where some of today’s PNG leaders have decided to copy the concepts of the European Middle ages around a thousand years ago and obviously try to emulate the same results.

Well perhaps they have at least progressed from the original ideas in PNG of cargo cult and have apparently meandered through the more informed concepts of money cults to that time in European history where miracles were claimed and people believed in mouldy old material items in order to feel self-satisfied they were being true to their beliefs and honest in their desire to lead a better life.

We have therefore, if you follow that reasoning, actually made some advances in logical thought and reasonable expectations of leadership in some of today’s PNG politicians. Clearly there’s only a thousand years of education and understanding to go, if one goes by the European examples.

As tru bilo displa bengbeng istap we nau ia?

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