Losing my religion, or just another voice emerging from the darkness

What was once a compulsory part of our education 150 years ago is now just a curiosity for many of us and a nuisance for some, writes Rebecca Levingston

Mar 27, 2024, updated Mar 27, 2024
Easter has taken on many different meanings since it first entered our schools a century and a half ago.

Easter has taken on many different meanings since it first entered our schools a century and a half ago.

Are you there God, it’s me Rebecca.

Last week I said those words into a dark void.

It wasn’t an existential crisis. I was standing in a theatre doing a sound check.

Minutes later the auditorium filled up with people who were coming to see a future astronaut called Dr Meganne Christian. A talented Australian who’s been selected as a reserve astronaut by the European Space Agency.

I asked Meganne if she was familiar with Judy Blume and her book Are you there God, it’s me Margaret. I feel like every kid read it in the 80s. She was and we chatted about school and space like they were places we’d both visit.

I’m not getting on a rocket any time soon, but one day Meganne will get the call to climb aboard the International Space Station. I asked her if she’d be like Chris Hadfield and sing a song in zero gravity. He chose David Bowie’s Major Tom. Meganne said she’d choose Tim Minchin’s Not Perfect.

This is my Earth
And I live in it
It’s one third dirt
And two thirds water
And it rotates and revolves through space
At rather an impressive pace
And never even messes up my hair
And here’s the really weird thing
The force created by its spin
Is the force that stops the chaos flooding in
This is my Earth
And it’s fine
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time
It’s not perfect
But it’s mine


Imagine singing those words into the never-ending sparkling blackness of space. What a perspective on the planet and how it came to be.

Tim Minchin is an atheist, but he thinks deeply about religion. I’ve been thinking a bit about God lately too as I look at the world and wonder how and why it spins. In fact I got a letter from my son’s State School principal about God this week.

Dear Families,
Religious Instruction will commence in Term 2. Under the Eduction Act, volunteers can visit schools and deliver faith based lessons for 30 minutes a week. Students who are not participating are not taught new content or skills in this time…

That was the gist of the email. It surprises many that in a jam-packed curriculum, RI remains a legislated component of public school eduction.

When Queensland state schools were established in 1875, they were secular. That changed in 1910 when Irish Anglican priest David Garland arrived with a mission to get the Bible into schools.

A referendum confirmed it for Queensland and in 2024 RI remains a fixture. According to the 2021 Census Christianity decreased by more than 1 million people but remains Australia’s most common religion. Almost 10 million Australians reported having no religion.

I vaguely remember doing Religion Education (RE as we used to call it) at my public primary school. My best friend attended church every Sunday, but the first time I stepped foot into a church I was 18.

I had moved out of home and was curious about faith so I popped in on a Sunday morning. It was a church opposite my university that backed on to the same grounds that hosted the Big Day Out music festival.

I remember having a conversation with a church leader after the service who told me that if I didn’t convert to Christianity I’d go to to hell. The church isn’t there anymore. It’s now been converted into a health and hospital precinct. I don’t think Jesus would mind.

This weekend in amongst the hot cross buns and chocolate, we might all contemplate our place on this planet.

Whether your God is in a church, in space, in nature, in music or nowhere or everywhere. I hope you find some peace.



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