ADELAIDE - Religion, by its very nature, requires that the faithful accept supernatural explanations for events in the material world in which we all live.
Consequently, religion frequently is irrational, anti-intellectual and anti-scientific.
In its more extreme forms it offers sociological and political ideas - like those of the Pentecostal movement - that are disguised as religious insights, hence the notion that becoming wealthy is a sign of God's favour.
Religion has historically served as a sort of petri dish in which all sorts of truly mad and dangerous ideas have grown.
Some of these ideas are merely supposedly heretical distortions of the prevailing orthodoxy, such as Adventism or Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Others, such as the grotesque distortions of Islamic belief of organisations such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State or the Taliban, can generate deeply dangerous, cruel and profoundly anti-democratic ideas about how the world should be governed.
In short, religion can be, and often is, a fountainhead for truly pernicious ideas about how the world can be made to better conform to a particular conception of God's will.
The historic efforts of organisations like the Catholic Inquisition and its Protestant equivalents are a case in point.
Huge numbers of people were terrorised, dispossessed or murdered in the name of imposing a particular version of Christianity.
More recently, it has been Islam that has been beset by radicalised believers aiming to overturn the current world order and replace it with their version of a Godly ruling regime.
India is now beset by Hindu extremism, aided and abetted by their current prime minister and government.
This does not bode well for the internal stability of the world's largest democracy, also a rising power.
The extent to which politicians’ religious beliefs impact upon how they do their job can range from negligible to profound.
Where prime ministers Scott Morrison and James Marape fit on this spectrum is hard to gauge, although the latter seems more overtly influenced by his beliefs.
As Phil Fitzpatrick rightly points out, Australia and Papua New Guinea, like most democratic societies, have constitutional arrangements that reflect secular ideas about how a nation state should be governed.
Still, this does not stop the religious trying to pursue their own agenda by, for example, amending the constitution to make PNG an overtly Christian state.
In Australia, the religious are arguing for unnecessary and superfluous legislative ‘protections’ for religious organisations, the practical effect of which is to enable them to engage in highly discriminatory behaviour.
The extent to which prime minister Morrison supports such legislation is unknown but there is a reasonable suspicion that he is predisposed to do so by his religious beliefs.
The last few decades have seen a resurgence in extremist beliefs and conspiracy theories in many forms, no doubt greatly facilitated by the internet and social media.
These beliefs almost invariably encourage paranoid suspicion of governments, science and authority generally.
They identify specific groups, real or imagined, as the source of immediate threat to those who ‘know the truth’ and offer very often bizarre and irrational explanations for things like the current pandemic.
With so many people living in a fantasy world of their own creation, there is a grave risk that serious mistakes will be made due to their distorted understanding of the world.
Our leaders therefore need more than ever to be guided by rationality, logic, science, compassion and empathy, together with a healthy dose of tolerance and pragmatism.
Being guided by supernatural or otherwise irrational beliefs has, historically speaking, been a recipe for disaster.