Gary D. Bouma
Gary D. Bouma
The sociology of Australian religion commenced in earnest with Hans Mol in the 1960s, and emerged with new strength and diversity in the 1980s with national studies of Australia's religious life (Mason and Fitzpatrick 1982). Aside from Aboriginal spiritualities, most forms of Australian spirituality are the result of immigration. While secularisation was supposed to render religion and the sociology of it irrelevant, at the dawn of the twenty-first century religion clearly has again become at least interesting if not quite the big business it was for most of the twentieth. Certainly the players have changed as the arrangements between religious organisations and Australian society established in the nineteenth century are replaced or augmented by those established in the twentieth. Waves of postwar migrants changed again the face of Australian religion, bringing unimaginable diversity and vitality to Australia's religious life.
Meanwhile, the emergence of new spiritualities alongside ages-old ones has made more diverse Australia's spiritual life and reminds sociologists that not all of this country 's encounter with the spiritual happens in formal religious structures. While through the 1970s and 1980s secularisation theories seemed to hold the key to the future (Millikan 1981; Wilson 1983), a few argued for the persistence of religion and spirituality (Bouma 1983, 1992; Hughes 1993, 1997). Now it is generally agreed the picture is much less clear. Neither persistence nor secularisation, but a new form of relationship between society and religion and spirituality is emerging (Hervieu-Léger 2000; Bouma 1999a; Fenn 2001) including a re-enchantment of the world (Tacey 2000).
Religion and spirituality both relate to dimensions of human life that intersect with but point beyond the ordinary and the material. This 'more than' quality is often expressed as being the source of all that is, most powerful, ultimately important, extending in time from before to after the now, ultimate life force, centre of the universe. Hence the use of such prefixes as meta-, trans-, super-, and extra- in the description of spiritual and religious phenomena. This transcendent character of the religious is balanced by a profound