1st Edition

Religion and Change in Australia

By Adam Possamai, David Tittensor Copyright 2022
    230 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This timely book offers a panoramic overview of the enduring significance of religion in modern Australian society. Applying sociological perspectives and contemporary theories of religion in society, it challenges conventional assumptions around the extent of secularisation in Australia and instead argues that religious institutions, groups, and individuals have proved remarkably adaptable to social change and continue to play a major role in Australian life. In doing so, it explores how religion intersects with a wide range of other contemporary issues, including politics, race, migration, gender, and new media.

    Religion and Change in Australia explores Australia’s unique history regarding religion. Christianity was originally imported as a tool of social control to keep convicts, settlers, and Australian Aboriginal peoples in check. This had a profound impact on the social memory of the nation, and lingering resentment towards the "excessive" presence of religion continues to be felt today. Freedom of religion was enshrined in Section 116 of the Australian Constitution in 1901. Nevertheless, the White Australia Policy effectively prevented adherents of non-Christian faiths from migrating to Australia and the nation remained overwhelmingly Christian. However, after WWII, Australia, in common with other western societies, appears to have become increasingly secularised, as religious observance declined dramatically.

    However, Religion and Change in Australia employs a range of social theories to challenge this securalist view and argues that Australia is a post-secular society. The 2016 census revealed that over half of the population still identify as Christian. In politics, the socially conservative religious right has come to exert considerable influence on the ruling Liberal-National Coalition, particularly under John Howard and Scott Morrison. New technologies, such as the Internet and social media, have provided new avenues for religious expression and proselytisation whilst so-called "megachurches" have been built to cater to their increasing congregations. The adoption of multiculturalism and increased immigration from Asia has led to a religiously pluralist society, though this has often been controversial. In particular, the position of Islam in Australia has been the subject of fierce debate, and Islamophobic attitudes remain common. Atheism, non-belief, and alternative spiritualities have also become increasingly widespread, especially amongst the young.

    Religion and Change in Australia analyses these developments to offer new perspectives on religion and its continued relevance within Australian society. This book is therefore a vital resource for students, academics, and general readers seeking to understand contemporary debates surrounding religion and secularisation in Australia.

    1. Introduction

    2. Contemporary theories of religion in society

    3. A short history of religion in Australia before WWII

    4. Post-WWII migration to Australia: from being Christian to religiously plural

    5. Australia as a Christian, a post-Christian, and a non-religious country

    6. Australian Aboriginal Peoples and contemporary religion

    7. Non-belief: ‘religious nones’, atheists and the spiritual but not religious

    8. Alternative spiritualities, ecology and individualism

    9. Feminised religion and the patriarchy

    10. Religion and new media

    11. Politics and religion: the use and abuse of faith

    12. Conclusion: Australia as a post-secular society?


    Adam Possamai is Professor of Sociology and Deputy Dean at the School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen academic books, 5 novels, and close to 100 refereed articles and book chapters. He is a past president of the International Sociological Association’s Committee 22 on the Sociology of Religion and of the Australian Association for the Study of Religion. He has been a visiting professor at the City University of New York and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His latest books are the Sage Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religion (edited with Anthony Blasi, Sage, 2020), The Social Scientific Study of Exorcism in Christianity (edited with Giuseppe Giordan, Springer, 2020), The I-zation of Society, Religion, and Neoliberal Post-Secularism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), Sociology of Exorcism in Late Modernity (with Giuseppe Giordan, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and the short stories collection Perles Noires (Rivière Blanche, 2021).

    David Tittensor is a Lecturer in Studies of Religion in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University, Melbourne. His research interests are Muslim movements, Turkish politics and society, and religion and development with a focus on Islam. He is the author of The House of Service: The Gülen Movement and Islam’s Third Way (Oxford University Press, 2014), co-editor (with Matthew Clarke) of Islam and Development: Exploring the Invisible Aid Economy (Routledge, 2014), co-editor (with Fethi Mansouri) of The Politics of Women and Migration in the Global South (Palgrave, 2017), and is a series editor for Muslims in Global Societies (Springer).

    Packed with astute observation and insightfully drawing on sociological theory, Religion and Change in Australia provides a sharp analysis of the state of religion in modern Australia. How has Indigenous peoples' religion changed since European invasion? How does religion influence current Australian politics? Did Harry Potter lead to an increase in witchcraft? Whatever your question, this book makes complex concepts both readable and entertaining.
    Marion Maddox, Professor of Social Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia

    This much-needed volume is a tour de force and is certain to become a classic source for information and understanding of the evolution of religion in Australia. It is thoroughly grounded in relevant sociological theory and also full of detailed descriptive material that contributes to the theoretical analyses the authors present. The volume is a must-read for anyone interested in Australia’s religious history, but also should be viewed as an important commentary on the evolution of religion in all Western societies.
    James T. Richardson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology & Judicial Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, USA