Whether that Australia is a secular society. Australia

Whether Australia is a
secular society is determined by the understanding and use of the terms
‘secular’ and ‘secularism’. Based on my understanding, I believe that Australia
is a secular society. This will be explained through Charles Taylor’s three
different forms of secularism (2007: 18-19). Additional reference to
Australia’s government will be used to reinforce the notion that Australia is a
secular society.

Australia as a secular
society is often debated but its truth lies within the terminology used. What
is interpreted by the terms secular and secularism determines whether Australia
should be described as a secular country, as stated by philosopher Charles
Taylor (2007: 18-21). Taylor acknowledged three types of secularism. Firstly,
secularism can mean that religion is an option for the public sphere. It is not
removed and is accessible to both the people and the state. Religion instead
becomes a singular voice amongst many, including those with no religion (Taylor
2007: 18). Secondly, secularism can relate to the populations strong religious
feeling or belief. This form can occur even where the state still supports
religion and involves a measurable deduction of religious feeling or belief (Taylor
2007: 18). Lastly, secularism could be the deletion of all religious feelings,
beliefs and gods from the public sphere. However, religion is still eligible to
be practised and believed in by the private sphere. Therefore, the population
can be religious whereas the state is secular (Taylor 2007: 19).

In conclusion, a country
may be highly collaborative with religious feelings or beliefs and still be
considered secular, so long as the country doesn’t endorse one religion to the
exclusion of other points of view (Taylor 2007: 21). Therefore, whether
Australia is a secular society is dependent upon which of Taylor’s 3 form of
secularism is appropriate. Regarding Australia’s government, Taylor’s first
form best fits Australia’s status as a secularised society. This is because
neither the second or third form illustrate Australia’s government and its
relationship with religion. This is exemplified in Section 116 of the
Australian Constitution (Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act: s 116):

“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.”

Thus, the Australian
government cannot form a state church. However, Australia’s government works
closely with religious groups. For example, the government works with religious
organisations for fundraising and acknowledges religious weddings (Henry &
Kurzak 2012: 1-3). The government’s involvement essentially rules out Taylor’s
third form of secularism, as the state must be secular. Although Australia is
still predominantly religious, Australia is changing in religious affiliations.
From 1996 to 2006, the number of people identifying as non-religious grew by
25.7% (Australian Government 2018: 1-2). This currently eliminates Taylor’s
second form of secularism. This leaves Taylor’s first form of secularism which
indicates that religion is an option for the public sphere (2007: 18). Therefore,
Australia is a secular country. This form of secularism allows for religion and
beliefs to be allowed and shared in both the public and private spheres of
Australia. 

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