Finding God on the Coast Seeking Meaningful Existence in Doctrines of Array of Religions; Faith Is the Centrepiece of Life for about Two Thirds of Sunshine Coast Residents, but That Faith Comes in All Shapes and Sizes. MELANIE KEYTE Looks at the Religions Followed on the Coast and Why People Are Drawn to the Spiritual

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), May 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Finding God on the Coast Seeking Meaningful Existence in Doctrines of Array of Religions; Faith Is the Centrepiece of Life for about Two Thirds of Sunshine Coast Residents, but That Faith Comes in All Shapes and Sizes. MELANIE KEYTE Looks at the Religions Followed on the Coast and Why People Are Drawn to the Spiritual


FOR about 10 years, Pastor Bob Burnett didn't like who he was.

Though raised in a Christian home, he walked away from his faith in the late 1960s only to return to his church almost a decade later.

"In that 10 years, I wasn't a particularly nice chap and with my coming back to Christ in my late 20s, I'm a different person," he said.

"It makes a huge difference, because if people are following Christ, and I'm not saying every person who professes to be a Christian does, we should be good people to be around.

"I'm not perfect, I'm a work in progress but every one of us is a work in progress."

Mr Burnett's search for a greater meaning in life drew him to a Christian denomination known as Westminster Presbyterian, but his quest for answers is not unique.

Humans have sought a meaningful existence since we first became aware of our own mortality and have found guidance in the doctrines of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and other religions across the globe.

Similarly, Buddhist Council of Queensland president Kim Hollows said he followed his religious teachings for "the good life".

"(Following Buddhism) is a personal aim to make yourself a better person and by making yourself a better person, you're able to positively influence other people in your life," he said.

"We talk about practising compassion, being sympathetic to other people and understanding their challenges in life.

"If you do that, you can develop wisdom, which we believe is an ongoing process."

Despite such impassioned accounts from religious practitioners, just over a third of Coast residents subscribe to no religion at all, a historically high number.

Their reasons range from "religion only starts wars" to "I just haven't found a religion which speaks to me yet", but most expressed the desire for a philosophy or guiding principle in life.

University of the Sunshine Coast expert on religious sociology Phillip Ablett said this desire was not well answered by contemporary consumer culture or by science, hence the enduring popularity of religion in human society.

"Consumer culture is about eating and being eaten," he said.

"That is not a very edifying vision of life.

"As for science, we expect too much of it.

"Science simply does not have an answer to those big existential questions about what we 'ought' to do. It can only handle what 'is'."

University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer in psychology Rachael Sharman also put the human attraction to religion down to what is known as "death anxiety".

"As far as we're aware, we're the only species who know we're going to die," she said.

"So religion appeared to have been a response to those levels of death anxiety, because what every religion has in common is an afterlife.

"What we've done is develop a system of beliefs which tell us that you're not going to end, that you're going to live on in some way or another."

That's not to say everybody embraces religion in an effort to ease these fears.

In addition to finding a sense of purpose, many religious practitioners across the Coast cite social support as one of their reasons for engaging with a religious community.

Anglican Bishop of the Brisbane Diocese Jeremy Greaves said the practice of sharing communion was a strong example of this social benefit.

"As they come forward to receive the bread and the wine, a lawyer might kneel next to a builder, an Aboriginal person might kneel next to a newly arrived refugee, a child might kneel next to an elderly person," he said.

"There are very few places in our society where such diverse people find themselves in such close proximity to others who are so different from themselves."

Bishop Greaves said this was also another reason for multi-faith initiatives to bring the varied denominations and disciplines of the Sunshine Coast together, a sentiment Rabbi John Cooper agreed with wholeheartedly. …

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Finding God on the Coast Seeking Meaningful Existence in Doctrines of Array of Religions; Faith Is the Centrepiece of Life for about Two Thirds of Sunshine Coast Residents, but That Faith Comes in All Shapes and Sizes. MELANIE KEYTE Looks at the Religions Followed on the Coast and Why People Are Drawn to the Spiritual
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