Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins

Sorry Richard Dawkins, but God is back!

GOD is back, taking centre stage in world political and social affairs as countries around the globe note a resurgence in spirituality.

No, this is not a movie title or the view of a Pentecostal pastor - it is a documented fact according to University of the Sunshine Coast sociology lecturer Dr Phillip Ablett.

A rabbi, a priest, a Buddhist monk and representatives from Muslim, Christian, Baha'i and indigenous communities will today debate the issue of diversity, at a public forum at the university.

With extremists in some religions dominating world headlines, the timing of the Sunshine Coast Interfaith and Multicultural Hypothetical Forum is, arguably, divine.

"There will be opportunities for discussion on what cultural diversity means on the Sunshine Coast today and where it might lead in future," Dr Ablett said.

Dr Ablett said many people liked to consider Australia as secular or Christian.

The reality was a multi-cultural society had, by definition, religious diversity.

"Christianity is still dominant, but the others are increasing more around the edges," he said.

He said scholars had been talking about a resurgence of religion in the past 20 years.

"We can date it to the Islamic revolution in Iran (in 1979)," he said.

"This was first revolution since the Mexican revolution (in 1910) that wasn't Marxist- led."

Dr Ablett said there were many signs that the idea of a modern, exclusively secular age was being challenged.

"Religion is back, except for Western arrogance, which assumes the world has become more secular," he said.

"All that has become more secular is the West.

"If you look globally, Christianity is holding its own in the century with around 33% of the globe Christian.

"The centre of gravity has shifted as it used to be in Europe - now it is in South America and Africa.

"We've conned ourselves in the West (thinking we are secular). Islam is also growing in popularity.

"There has been a loss of confidence in secular salvation movements and resurgence in religious ones.

"God is back! And (high profile British atheist) Richard Dawkins is very out of step."

Dr Ablett said the forum was about dialogue, which was where the hope for the future lay.

"If we want to bring about peaceable difference in the world, we need dialogue," he said."Gratuitous violence is not a leading value of any of the world's major religions.

"They all have the view of faith, compassion and goodwill towards others.

"But occasionally we do get people in conflict situations that use faith to justify their own means."

All major faith and cultural groupings on the Coast, as well as community and political leaders, have been invited to the forum, which is also open to the public.

Prospective participants can register today or email pablett@usc.edu.au.


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