Among Australia’s many faith communities and denominations, Christianity is the historical movement that has withstood the test of time. It has attracted a diverse demographic from a variety of denominational denominations with distinct values and a rich tradition. In 1788, a fleet of Christian Catholics arrived in Australia (Carey, 2009). Most of them, along with a few Royal Marines, were Irish prisoners. According to Carey (2009), the culture that moved to Australia as a small group witnessed substantial population development, exceeding 10,000 during the 1828 census with the addition of around 370 Australian natives. In the early 1800s, there existed the selections of the priesthood as leaders in the colony with James Dixon being the first priest to be mandated by the church to conduct Mass services every Sunday in Sidney, Liverpool, and Parramatta (Carey, 2009). The Christian movement gained recognition and fame in Australia because of their strong beliefs. Since inception, Catholic Church as a Christian movement is known not only in Australia but also in the rest of the world because of the distinct and outstanding faith in regards to worship and social roles it has been playing in the neighborhood communities (Swain, 1991).
Aboriginal dreaming is also the recognized historic culture in Australia just as Christianity. Dreaming is a term often used by anthropologists to refer to the period when the land is believed to have been occupied and have been inhabited by the supernatural beings who have possessed extraordinary abilities (Partridge, 2005). The only distinction of such beings from the gods was their inability to take control of the material or get a privilege to be worshiped. They enjoyed the homage and reverence the ordinary people gave them. Aboriginal beliefs ended up forming a culture by the 1890s. At the end of the 1980s, the popular Aboriginal culture had acquired its currency (Rose, 1987). Their stories were a source of information and laws governing nature and demanding obedience. The Dreaming world is also said to be full of the supernatural occupants who have existed because of extraordinary intervention. Their birth was out of their defined eternity. The land stopped being formless, and the plants started sprouting up, and some animal-like creatures developed into human beings (Rose, 1987). The sun came from the ground and superseded darkness. The ancient stories, which comprise the biggest part of the folklore, form the essential elements of Aboriginal beliefs whose history traces back to the time of creation.
Taking into account the two sets of histories and beliefs, there are myriads of similarities and differences Christianity and Aboriginal culture which have transformed into a good platform to examine and analyze religion in the Australian society. One common elementary belief among the two parties is the existence of God. In several Aboriginal language groups, there is a faith in Baiame, God the creator, who is also the sky father in the dream concept (Partridge & Christopher, 2005). Both cultures believe in God of heavens and earth. One point of ideological difference between the two parties is on supernatural level among the Aboriginals. While Christianity attributes the creation work solely to God, Aboriginal group claim that the supernatural heroes have moved across the formless land putting up the present-day structures and the sacred places (Pitt, 1992). This controversy has been used as a template to study the concept of creation and its origin extensively which has also been used as a marked line to differentiate the type of religion being practiced by various Australian natives.
Dreaming as a concept in Aboriginal beliefs is said to exist before an individual is born and proceeds even after the same person dies. In a broad spectrum, a life of an individual has been predefined to exist, and even if that human dies, the trace of life will perpetuate elsewhere. It is means there is the life before and after death. The Wagga genres along with dance and songs performed in the early 1800s gave an expression of death and illusion of life, and regeneration after that (Partridge, Christopher, 2005). The celebrations indicate their belief in life after death, though such feelings have been changing with time. The same concept is perceived differently by the two religions. The origin of the sun, as an example, is a story told differently by dreaming concept in Western Australia as opposed to tales for New South Wales (Longworth, Alison, 2009). All the creatures and places draw their significance from the gods wedded to them in dreaming. However, for the Christians life is known to originate from God, and no one can predict if some individual will be born. It is also believed that if a person dies, she/ he will not reincarnate after death. The stories of creation as well in Christianity are familiar and the same throughout history and places inhabited by Christian in Australia. One site holds a similar creation belief as any other setting inhabited by Christians.
Regarding beliefs, still, there is no historical record serving as a real substance of worship among the adherents in Aboriginal Dreaming. The songs, dances, and other arts were performed until recently in the 1900s they were not referenced as supernatural. There is a mention of heroes having offered an excellent contribution to the society but not the position of worship (Pitt, 1992). Still, the practitioners in the beliefs give homage to some other individuals far above their heroes. In this regard, Christianity holds a different conceptual belief. The Catholic Christian Church, as it grew since inception in Australia, has been gaining better organizational structure to enhance the act of worship. The leadership template of hierarchical leadership was adopted from Rome in 1804 when the first Bishop of the Church arrived and took charge of the religious functions (Partridge, 2005). Orders and small leadership positions were created in the church in the 1850s to make work easier. The organization does not deal with the Aboriginal dreaming, as opposed to the counterpart; it is just a group of adherents who conserve the beliefs which among the Australian Christians is to ensure active worship.
The church leaders including the elected catechists, the priests, and bishops presided over religious functions such as preaching and singing which were basically to worship God (Swain, 1991). The issue of worship is a distinguishing element while categorizing religions and beliefs in Australia. The present day studies on religion in the Australian society base their research on the type of worship that various groups of believers engage. Besides worship, the Christian community sphere-headed by Catholics in different parts of Australia trust in the service and extension of the beliefs through schools. In the 19th century, two schools were established by the Catholic Church Western Australia (Swain, 1991). Though they did not do well at first, they began picking very well with the arrival of Connolly and Therry in 1920. About ten schools in the region had been constructed by 1833 (Swain, 1991). During this time the schools began receiving the government support in terms of land for expansion and financial resources to meet the requirement of management. It was a Christian church idea to offer not only the civic education but also the Christian education to the communities of Australian society. The counterpart practiced not such activities as traced for a long time.
The cultural values and beliefs of the Aboriginal dreaming were hereditary which passed from the parents to their children (Rose, 1987). Among much strength of Aboriginal beliefs there was the ability to threaten the adherents and prevent them from engaging certain activities such as digging on the graves of heroes. Their sacredness kept the individuals from going extreme in their actions. As a result, the roles played in the community by the two parties has showed a big difference which is still a template today when determining what religion in Australia is as well as what is expected of it. The human world is the another controversial issue standing between Australian Christians and the Aboriginal people who believe they are indigenous inhabitants of Australia, holding on to the cultures and ancestral lands of Tasmania, Palm Island, Mornington Island, and Melville islands. It was difficult to define the group over time in the history of Australia (Carey, 1996). Sometimes they are thought to possess social definition as opposed to the racial type which as far as religion is still a concern and has been a preference by a vast majority of people in Australia as opposed to the above racial notion during assimilation times (Carey, 1996). The issue has been disputing the Aboriginal people about their identity not only in the social world but also in the national economic affairs as well as religion.
The ancient Christianity in Australian history did not fight for recognition and identity as seen in the modern Australian Catholics. The underlying belief is that Christians are aliens and strangers on earth, heading for some land of promise in heaven (Rose, 1987). Being identified as a movement which has not been a priority to them, it almost has transformed into a requirement for the sake of many religious functions demanding government attention. The idea is this regard is that whereas the Aboriginal confidence are more secular in nature, the Christian, on the other hand, are indeed religious and propelled by some force above human abilities.
The Australian notion of Aboriginal Dreaming considerably contributes to the manner in which religion is understood in the country today. The understanding is the basis used by Christians to explain everything that entails beliefs. Further, they believe that people originate from a supreme being who is the creator of everything that is on earth while Aboriginals believe in supernatural as their origin (Pitt, 1992). It provides a close similarity between the Aboriginal dreaming and Christianity contributes to the understanding of religion in Australia today in the sense that it forms a basis by which Christians can trace back their existence (Brock, 2009). It also explains how everything came to be and who was responsible for everything that goes around their lives on a daily basis.
The comparison between Aboriginal Dreaming and Christianity helps Australian Christians understand what is expected from them as Christians (Pitt, 1992). Therefore, the history of Aboriginal Dreaming regarding their values and beliefs teach Christians what they should uphold to keep their faith. It is easy for them to learn and understand Christianity as a religion. Principally, the history has been the foundation for Christian faith in the modern Australia (Bell, 2009). By following the teachings of Aboriginal Dreaming and comparing them with Christianity, people can comprehend that religion requires them to uphold their faith and lead their lives in such a way that it pleases the creator and serves humanity.
Moreover, the comparison contributes to the realization that Christianity is about obeying and observing all laws in Australia (Longworth, 2009). In addition, using the histories and beliefs, Christians can understand that religion calls for observance of all rules. Therefore, Christians in Australia believe that they have an obligation to honor every set rule and regulation since, from their understanding of religion that is what it advocates for (Cusack, 2012). Through the comparison, the contribution made to the understanding of religion in Australia is that it calls for the preservation of sacred places. The country has numerous facilities from where the Christians worship (Armstrong, 2000). Over the years, the conservation of the areas has brought to them attention that places of worship are holy and should be respected which has also developed lasting perceptions in people’s mind that religion greatly concerns itself with holy places and this is the view held by almost all Christians in Australia.
To conclude, there are many similarities and differences between the beliefs and history of Aboriginal Dreaming and Christianity. Based on the comparison, Aboriginal Dreaming and Christianity share so much in common in regards to their beliefs and values. The comparison is also essential in explaining how the histories of the two religions have led to the wider scope understanding religion in Australia. The assessment has resulted in the understanding as why Christians view religion as they do the reasons as why they uphold certain behaviors and their views towards the faith in the modern era.
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