The Australian Constitution Act, Section 116 states:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
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Probably, around the time that people started forming into communities, gods were invented to explain natural phenomena. And those who could ‘interpret’ the messages of the gods, gained power as a priest, a shaman, a rabbi or an imam to establish rules by which the community should live.
The Indians, the Greeks and the Romans each had a positive pantheon of gods, as did the Egyptians and the Scandinavians. In fact, you would have difficulty finding any of the early civilisations which did not have several gods, but the Jews and the Arabs were distinguished by only having one god.
Buddhism stands out as recommending a path to enlightenment or Nirvana, rather than belief in an all-powerful god.
The rules by which the community should live were transferred through the priest and eventually many were recorded in the holy books, most of which are still available today.
Clearly, the rules laid down millennia ago were limited to the knowledge available at that time. The food rules still adhered to by those of Jewish faith as well as Muslims were, when devised, very sensible for the most part, bearing in mind the climate, the lack of refrigeration and limited understanding of hygiene.
The Ten Commandments are probably among the most succinctly detailed recorded rules for the community. Jesus Christ reportedly simplified them to two, summing up commandments 2 to 10 as “Thy shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
This, plus the accompanying parable of the Good Samaritan, forms the foundation of ethical living and, whether or not you believe in a god and whether or not you have any particular faith, this rule if followed would make the world a much more harmonious place IMHO!
And so, we come to the much touted ‘Aussie values’ which our Coalition leaders rabbit on about ad nauseam!
There is only one value, I believe, which has any importance, and it is respect.
Respect for others rights and beliefs, respect for difference and respect for all living things.
There are some behaviours of cultural origin which are based on ignorance or ulterior motives which do not deserve respect. Male circumcision has somewhat obscure beginnings and its value is more cultural than medical.
By contrast, female circumcision, sometimes known as female genital mutilation, is strictly cultural in origin, has no foundation for improving health and can actually be significantly harmful. It is often seen as related to patriarchalism and Australia is quite right to ban this practice. It is not connected with religion, and, although it is practiced in many Muslim countries, it is not mentioned in the Qur’an.
One of the problems with ‘faith’ is the foundation for the beliefs generated. Both Islam and Christianity are practised by many sects and their values and beliefs vary enormously. Some of the Christian fundamentalists still believe in the creation, as documented in the Book of Genesis. Others turn to the Old Testament for their rules for life, ignoring entirely the extent to which the teachings of Christ, more than subtly, changed the emphasis of the teachings. Yet they still call themselves Christian!
The current stand-out example is Israel Folau. Most believe that GoFundMe is an avenue for fund-raising for those in desperate need of funds, often in a matter of life and death. Yet Folau – ignoring the extent to which science has shown the errors of many of the beliefs expressed, in understandable ignorance, by the ancient prophets, and his vilifying of members of the LGBTIQ community – is seeking funds to enable him to appeal a finding that he is guilty of breach of contract, despite having been in receipt of millions through his sponsors!
So – how should Australia handle the issue of values?
Except in so far as a religion might encourage you to live ethically, I do not think religion should enter into the picture.
Living ethically does not require the existence of a god and even those of us who are agnostic or atheist are still possessed of a conscience – unless we are psychopaths!
Knowing who Bradman was is less and less important but understanding the rule of law and the separation of powers is essential – and not yet achieved by many born here! Possibly that is why we elect some of the candidates who are currently gracing the seats in our Parliament!
Really and truly – the only people who have any real right to lay down the rules determining who can migrate to Australia are our First Nations – who had absolutely no choice over being invaded!
And I am sure that being recognised, respected and given a voice would be valued more highly by them than anything else we might imagine!
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