Religion and Non-Religion among Australian Aboriginal Peoples: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Religion and Non-Religion among Australian Aboriginal Peoples

1st Edition

Edited by James L. Cox, Adam Possamai


210 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Offering a significant contribution to the emerging field of 'Non-Religion Studies', Religion and Non-Religion among Australian Aboriginal Peoples draws on Australian 2011 Census statistics to ask whether the Indigenous Australian population, like the wider Australian society, is becoming increasingly secularised or whether there are other explanations for the surprisingly high percentage of Aboriginal people in Australia who state that they have 'no religion'. Contributors from a range of disciplines consider three central questions: How do Aboriginal Australians understand or interpret what Westerners have called 'religion'? Do Aboriginal Australians distinguish being 'religious' from being 'non-religious'? How have modernity and Christianity affected Indigenous understandings of 'religion'? These questions re-focus Western-dominated concerns with the decline or revival of religion, by incorporating how Indigenous Australians have responded to modernity, how modernity has affected Indigenous peoples' religious behaviours and perceptions, and how variations of response can be found in rural and urban contexts.


"This book presents a rich ethnographic insight into the changing world of Aboriginal society in Australia. It shows that Indigenous ways of life persist despite the blending of Indigenous beliefs with other religions such as Christianity and even Islam. This book will be a core text for everyone working on Indigenous religions today."Bettina Schmidt, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK

"In these highly original essays the authors describe how Australia is becoming a less Christian society, as a result of both the rise of non-Christian faiths and the less well known rise of 'non-religion', as individualism, self-autonomy and relativistic values strengthen among people to whom spirituality, of some kind, remains important. These trends are shaping twenty-first century Aboriginal culture and by making Aboriginal non-religion visible and comprehensible this volume makes a strikingly original contribution, not only to Australian studies, but to our understanding of Indigeneity as a global culture."Tim Rowse, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Table of Contents

Part I: Setting the Context

1. Introduction: The Australian Census, Religious Diversity and Religious ‘Nones’ among Indigenous Australians

James L. Cox and Adam Possamai

2. The Study of Religion and Non-religion in the Emerging Field of ‘Non-religion Studies’: Its Significance for Interpreting Australian Aboriginal Religions

James L. Cox

Part II: Non-religion among Aboriginal Peoples

3. Urban–Rural Geographies of Aboriginal Religious and Non-religious Identification

Awais Piracha, Helena Onnudottir and Kevin Dunn

4. Going with the Flow: Indigenous Non-religion, not Atheism

Alan Nixon

Part III: Hybridity and Religion among Aboriginal Peoples

5. Altjira, Dream and God

David Moore

6. The Strehlow–Hermannsburg/Ntaria Perplex: Translation in a Lutheran-Aboriginal Community

Hart Cohen

7. New Songs and Old Songlines: Aboriginal Christianity and Post-mission Australia

Steve Bevis

8. The Ties that Bind: The Importance of Religion and Community to the Non-religious

Theresa Petray

Part IV: Conclusion

9. Religion, Cultural Hybridity and Chains of Memory

Adam Possamai and James L. Cox

About the Editors

James L. Cox is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh and Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney.

Adam Possamai is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney.

About the Series

Vitality of Indigenous Religions

Routledge's Vitality of Indigenous Religions series offers an exciting cluster of research monographs, drawing together volumes from leading international scholars across a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. Indigenous religions are vital and empowering for many thousands of indigenous peoples globally, and dialogue with, and consideration of, these diverse religious life-ways promises to challenge and refine the methodologies of a number of academic disciplines, whilst greatly enhancing understandings of the world.

This series explores the development of contemporary indigenous religions from traditional, ancestral precursors, but the characteristic contribution of the series is its focus on their living and current manifestations. Devoted to the contemporary expression, experience and understanding of particular indigenous peoples and their religions, books address key issues which include: the sacredness of land, exile from lands, diasporic survival and diversification, the indigenization of Christianity and other missionary religions, sacred language, and re-vitalization movements. Proving of particular value to academics, graduates, postgraduates and higher level undergraduate readers worldwide, this series holds obvious attraction to scholars of Native American studies, Maori studies, African studies and offers invaluable contributions to religious studies, sociology, anthropology, geography and other related subject areas.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Ethnic & Tribal
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Indigenous Studies