It’s usually said that Australians are uninterested in the metaphysical. Where in America the lines between the secular and religious are notoriously blurred, not least in their politicians or sporting heroes invoking God on almost every conceivable occasion, Australians by contrast are held to be a godless lot, their mythologies entirely secular in form and meaning. God is rarely publicly invoked, except by ministers of religion whose particular business it is duly to do so.
Sometimes, in more dyspeptic moments, and especially when the Australian obsession with sport reaches heights never before scaled by humanity as in this Olympics year, I am tempted to agree with an observation of Freud in his Moses and Monotheism concerning the ‘brutality and the inclination to violence which are usually found where athletic development becomes the ideal of the people’. Yet it appears that schoolkids are now very interested in religion, religious studies are doing very well in universities, and hundreds of people turned up at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for a debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls.