Religion in a secular society

cross on a mountainFRIDAY FORUM

A recent National Geographic report seemed to confirm what many have suspected ­– the number of Christians is declining in Australia, as it is throughout much of the Western world.

Atheists, agnostics and people who identify themselves as nonreligious now constitute the second largest ‘religious’ group in Australia. Young people form a large proportion of this group.

This naturally raises the question of how the church can remain relevant in an increasingly secular society like Australia.

While many congregations face the challenge of an ageing congregation, others have been enriched by the contributions of CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) communities. The biggest growth in the Uniting Church comes from first and second generation migrants. In some regional towns, CALD communities make up the majority of the congregation.

This presents new challenges and opportunities for the church as it strives to remain relevant in the 21st century.

Christianity may no longer be the dominant force it once was in Australia, but religion remains an integral part of many people’s lives. For some, the church is a place to find meaning and support in an often confusing world. Others use their faith to drive their social justice impulse and inspire acts of kindness and compassion.

The latest episode of Q&A featured an all-Christian panel, including South Sydney Uniting Church elder Julie McCrossin. Ms McCrossin explained why she believes many people still participate in church-led activities.

“They’re repelled by the human dynamics and how hard it is to improve the world. But by going to a local parish, being engaged with a faith group, there is a degree of mutual nurturing and a language to deal with the intensities and ups and downs of life that I think sustain people to be engaged in efforts to improve the world over a lifetime,” she said.

“There’s an extensive network of voluntary activity that is inspired by faith and these are people for whom this has been going on throughout their lifetime.”

On this week’s Friday Forum, we ask:

What is the relevance of religion in an increasingly secular society?

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