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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Defending God?

Joe Hockey in a speech at the Sydney Institute has laid out his account of his understanding of what a secular multi faith society is in the Australian context.

 From my perspective a secular society respects all faiths and accepts that no religious organisation should seek to impose its views on the functions of government.

Secularity does not mean that we should seek to diminish the role that faith and religion play in the lives of the majority of Australians. Nor does it mean that the State should be precluded from supporting the work of religious institutions where they are contributing constructively to the community – be it in the provision of social services, education or welfare.

His closing lines summarise the drift of his argument:

What we as a society must not do is allow our secularity to be a reason for ignoring those who are truly inspirational just because they are people of faith.

A believer and a non-believer can learn from those who have trodden this Earth inspired by their religion and dedicated to their fellow men and women.

Tonight I have sought to share my views on the importance of faith. As a liberal, my view is that faith is not something that can or should be imposed by government or politicians. It will however influence my words and my deeds.

A secular society imbued with the values that faith engenders will be stronger not weaker.

And Australia is all the richer when it accepts that the values that the great religions teach are the burning beacon of a just, fair and compassionate society based on truth and respect for our own humanity.
 

On Hockey's account he is as much a follower of Mill as anyone and interprets the right of "religions" to participate within this particular account of how society should function. This account does not grapple with the tension between the individualising thrust of liebralism that leaves nothing effectively between the individual in their choice and the power of the state and the market and the communal roots of faith traditions that underpin the vierutes that he values as being critical for the functioning of society.

I read it as being largely staking out the ground against the fundamentalist religionists within his own party. For another assessment see the discussion by Barney Swartz Religion editor of the Age newspaper, The Gospel According to Joe.

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