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Marion Maddox

In the week that Voting for Jesus landed in my letterbox, the Howard government announced that it was considering dollar-for-dollar support for state school chaplaincies, while, in New South Wales, fresh allegations surfaced of branch stacking by the state Liberals’ ‘religious right’ faction. Those perplexed by such developments in secular Australia will find novelist Amanda Lohrey a helpful, warm-hearted guide. Her colourful, impressionistic and approachable account of Australia’s religious right welcomes readers into a debate that some might previously have been inclined to dismiss as too confusing, or as marginal to secular concerns. Chats with academics, theologians and commentators offer a variety of angles. Far from adopting a didactic tone, the text beguiles with numerous questions that sound rhetorical but often remain unanswered.

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Campaigning during the 1912 US presidential election, the great labour leader and socialist Eugene Debs used to tell his supporters that he could not lead them into the Promised Land because if they were trusting enough to be led in they would be trusting enough to be led out again. In other words, he was counselling his voters to resist the easy certitude that zealotry brings; to reject a politics that trades on blind faith rather than the critical power of reason.

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