Thursday, 30 April 2009

Strong support for a belief of mine

For years, I have been curious as to why Australia - undoubtedly the most socially conservative nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development - is not greatly more overt in its religiosity than it actually is.

Australia's basic social characteristics strongly suggest a culture where religious attendance is at least twice as high as it is even among the most conservative sections of society. For one thing, my RMIT minder, though very conservative and supporting most of what the Politically Incorrect Guides say (when I bought him the Guide to English and American Literature he said he agreed with over ninety percent of it), never said anything to me about attending religious services. Nor are people in the ultraconservative outer suburbs noisy about being religious even if the occasional crucifix does suggest some indeed are religious.

It has long been known that big government tends to erode religiosity, and having my knowledge of astrology and basic personality theory it makes sense that people with a very committed and devout faith would support small government because they tend to be highly feeling (in astrological terms "watery") in their orientation. This recent study (though its results are quite old) by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgårde confirms this, by showing how welfare spending makes people less religious.

However, what is striking about the two diagrams shown in this post is how much less religious Australia is than its low level of welfare spending suggests it would be. Judging by other nations shown, Australia's rate of church attendance should be around forty percent, more than twice what it actually is and far above even attendance levels I imagine exist in the most Catholic-dominated sections of outer suburbs.

The explanation I favoured before reading these articles and still favour afterwards is a founder effect whereby the character of the first settlers of Australia, who were quite secular Protestants, have distorted the high religiosity favoured by Australia's extraordinary abundance of minerals and usable land. I imagine that in the future the likely failure of big government in Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand could well cause so much downsizing in Australia (the only developed country whose people can accept it), which, if Gill and Lundsgårde are right, will see religiosity in Australia far ahead of any other country outside Africa or the Middle East, as simple resource models would predict for an industrialised globe.

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