Role of religion in society

Any serious attempt to consider the future of our society cannot ignore the role of religion. As one of the religions present in Australia, the Australian Baha’i Community is interested in exploring the role of religion in Australian society and the positive contribution that religion can make to our collective future.

Throughout history, religion has been an important force shaping beliefs about the purpose of life, our place in the world, and how society should be structured. Many Australians continue to hold religious beliefs, and our religious landscape has become increasingly diverse, including those who do not have a religion.

Religion has awakened in people capacities to love, to forgive, to create, to dare greatly, and to sacrifice for the common good. Religions and their followers have played a vital role in movements for social welfare and social justice in Australia. They have also sometimes acted as obstacles in the path to those goals. Religious prejudice and strife have been a cause of conflict and suffering in Australia and overseas, a major blight to progress, and are increasingly abhorrent to the people of all faiths and no faith.

“Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”

We recognise that religious communities need to resolve their differences and reflect on how they can play a unifying role, recognising that anyone can make a valid contribution, and relinquishing any conceptions of exclusive access to truth. Followers of different religions also need to come together to consider how to apply the wisdom and values that underlie our diverse traditions to the shared task of building a better world in the modern era.

Among the questions that we seek to explore are:

  • How can the idea that human reality has a spiritual as well as a material dimension inform efforts to promote the common good?
  • How can we address the spiritual aspects of challenges ranging from apathy and prejudice to inequality and material poverty?
  • How can the followers of all religions resolve the differences between them, both in theory and in practice, in order to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace?

We welcome the opportunity to explore such questions with people of all backgrounds and beliefs, including non-religious partners. The Australian Baha’i Community is an active participant in this dialogue in Australia at the local, state and national levels, including as a member of the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations (APRO).

Despite the tragic distortions we witness today, religion still possesses the capacity to play a decisive role in helping to build a better world.