On my most recent trip to Australia, my fiancée and I went camping in the Flinders Ranges. The family at the campsite next to ours was great company. It was a husband, wife (for the sake of this discussion I will call them Tyler and Carol) and their four children. They were in the first week of a five-month road trip that would take them across the country. This was possible through long-service leave from Tyler’s job (something largely unheard of in America). He worked as a Presbyterian priest for a large parish on the east coast. The flexibility of the children’s school schedule thanks to Carol homeschooling them, also made the trip possible. During their time in Flinders Ranges, the family spent the cool mornings hiking. In the afternoons, Carol and the children did lessons. In addition to the core subjects, Carol teaches the children music and German, which she is fluent in. On this trip they would live on the road and expand their horizons with new places, new people, and new experiences.
This family is very much the exception in secular society. In America, I find it easier to find both the extreme secular (humanist) end of the spectrum along with the those on the ‘hyper-religious’ end of the spectrum. From my experience abroad, I would argue that secularism is more heavily toted as the norm in Australia compared to the United States. I think on a whole, Australians would agree with me. I’ve had many Aussies tell me that Americans are more ‘religious’ than themselves. Which makes this family quite the rare exception to secularism in Australia, and in my opinion an especially refreshing exception. I think their lifestyle has many potential benefits over the more conventional options. However, despite any benefits, being the vast minority could make the children feel isolated as they grow older, simply due to the fact that their upbringing is so different from that of other Aussies.
This is the challenge and the gift of secularism. Secularism provides an environment for everyone to live freely as they choose. But it does not dictate the environment. Instead, people’s choices create the ever changing fabric of the society in which they live. Making it ideal for some and confronting or isolating for others. Secularism gives people the freedom to live according to their own beliefs, but secularism does not necessarily pave the way or make it easy to live out one’s beliefs. It provides freedom but not ease. I believe there is a knack to taking advantage of secularism rather than being driven down by it. I see no better example that this Aussie family. Quite an exception to the rule.