on reflection, I think the language of “silencing” here could be improved. Perhaps “excluding from decision making” is closer to what I’m trying to communicate.
Our second response to the desire to silence religious voices in public and legislative debate is built upon part 1 where I argued that to silence any voice was intrinsically a rejection of our democratic system.
But I want to go further. To seek to silence religious opinions is to want to put a gag on a viewpoint that, to one extent or another, is something that large segments of our population identify with.
Back in 2011, in the run-up to the Australian census, I wrote about a campaign by atheists to get people to put “no religion” down in their census answers. When the actual results came out the top line figures showed us that over 60% of the population declared an affinity with the Christian religion. The “no religion” figure had risen from 18.7% to 22.3% since the 2006 census.
Now I trust none of us are naïve enough to argue that this means that Australia is 60% Christian since the majority of those identifying as such are making a nominal or cultural identification. In every place that I have ministered the actual attendance at Anglican church services is far below those identifying as “Anglican” in the census. So we don’t want to claim more here than is actually being stated and that’s the argument I put forward when appearing on the Project on this issue just after Christmas 2013. This doesn’t mean that we should have a theocracy, but it does mean we should be open to theology (“words about God”).
Nevertheless there is still a majority segment of our population who identify as “Christian” and even more who choose other religious descriptors of themselves. It stands to reason, therefore, that any truly representative discussion, let alone government, ought to take this into account. Quite why this self-perception remains and whether it is a good thing is something I’ll tackle in the next post.
Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God)? Well not quite. But when the people are given a voice the majority choose to identify with some concept of God. To seek to silence talk of God is thus an unrepresentative move. The people have spoken in the census, so why not let more words on the same subject be heard amongst the people?