The Democracy in a Religious World work stream contributes to a broadening of focus and attention to the role that religion and faith play in public policy issues.
Population projections published in a Pew Research Centre report in 2015 underscore that the world is becoming more religious, not less, as globalisation and rising living standards outside the developed world continue to bring about far-reaching social and political change. For Australia, as an increasingly diverse but also increasingly secular country in a world which is becoming more religious, it is important to deepen our understanding of what this reality entails.
Public policy thinking does not always acknowledge that religion, in a similar way to the economy, is a powerful influence in shaping people's values and behaviour, an important factor for understanding how modern societies work, and an enduring part of the social and political landscape. For example, the positive contributions that faith communities make to the common good in sustaining community at local levels, in fostering social cohesion and integration, and in building and retrieving the capacity of individuals to take part in society and life in common, often tend to be taken for granted.
Based on analysis of the empirical data, the Democracy in a Religious World work stream provides an assessment of the important resources for building a good society which faith communities and religious bodies can offer, and also the negative impacts of religion and faith on community and cohesion. It also addresses the distinction between democracy as secularism and democracy as pluralism, and the shift from one to the other as a major reframing of the meaning of democracy in the twenty-first century.