Now More Than Ever: "Fit for Purpose"
It is increasingly reported that organised religion is fading in Western countries, and Australia is no exception to this. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that “no religion” has increased from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016 and 38.9% in 2021. With there being no apparent ceiling for where this “no religion” figure might end, it could be suggested that those who minister from a faith-based or religious background are not needed, as they are not the right fit for our secular culture generally, nor (as some would argue) for our military specifically. The argument goes that the military should start to draw down its faith-based chaplaincy capacity, aiming to see them completely removed by the end of the decade. This line of argument for removing faith-based chaplains, or diluting their role, has strong intuitive appeal. However, it is based on three erroneous assumptions: first, that ‘no religion’ is equivalent to ‘secular’; second, that only religious personnel seek or gain benefit from religious chaplaincy, and third, it fails to take into account the projected increase in diverse religious beliefs held by many culturally and linguistically diverse people.