Next weekend the nation's churches will be filled to overflowing. But then, Christmas and Easter are the exceptions to the great Australian indifference to worship.Belief for most Australians is about values far more than devotion. It's belief without belonging.
But those beliefs are strong. They challenge old assumptions that Australia is an essentially secular country. When 1000 of us were quizzed by Nielsen last weekend for this special poll on faith, we identified ourselves strongly as believers and strongly Christian. Half of us say religion is important or very important in our lives. And even many non-believers still identify themselves as Christian by background.
We aren't dogmatic. We doubt the Bible is the actual word of God. And most of those who do believe the Good Book is divinely inspired don't regard it, word for word, as literally true. Only a hard core of the faithful believes there is one and only one way to interpret the teachings of their own brand of religion. But that core of dedicated Christians makes up about 20 per cent of all Australians.
What you make of these figures depends on where you stand. The view from both sides is disappointing. Christians might despair that 7 million or so Australians seem headed for hell - not that most of us believe hell exists. But the anti-God brigade can look at the same figures and despair that roughly 10 million Australians are still caught in the toils of superstition.
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