"Either you got faith or you got unbelief" Bob Dylan, "Precious Angel"
A book recently released ("Losing my Religion: Unbelief in Australia" by Tom Frame) studies unbelief in Australia.
The book utilises census statistics on religious affiliation. Frame distinguishes between disbelief (a conscious rejection of belief) and unbelief (not so much a denial of God as an inability to believe in God). Frame suggests it is the latter who predominate in Australia at present, and for most of our history. He says that few Australians have deliberately rejected belief, most simply can't see why they need to be bothered with religion at all.
He is critical of the more militant on both sides of the debate: "Recent interactions between certain religious believers and unbelievers ..... have been remarkable for neither respect nor amity. I attribute the main sources of discord to conservative Protestants and positive atheists. Neither group seems able to accept the other's existence."
Frame recently spoke at a session on religion at the Sydney Writer's Festival. Here is one blogger's summary of what he had to say:
"Religion is not just about being religious; it explores the questions we all face: life, death, ethics/morality. In Australia, nearly 80% of the population believes in a divine entity, 63% define themselves as Christian, with 5% identifying as non-Christian religion or spirituality. So the big questions that are being asked in the public sphere are what does it mean to behave (with a community and within society more broadly). Church attendance (from 30% -> 4-5%) is not an indicator that people are no longer interested in religion; all organizations with an outward form of affiliation are in steady decline"
I think most of that we already knew, but the discussion of the issues by a sane and balanced writer is welcome.