Andrew Leigh thinks Australia is disconnected, and he’s written a book about it. In Disconnected, Andrew spends a whole chapter outlining why the decline of religion is making social cohesion worse, and the benefits to society of having more religious believers.
To be clear, Andrew says in his book that he’s an atheist. That made John Dickson want to speak to him more. While Andrew can’t sign on to the churches’ theological views, he can see the good that religion does in society, and he’s done a bucket load of research to prove it.
Links related to this episode:
- Listen to Andrew Leigh’s podcast The Good Life.
- A social capital primer from social capital expert Robert Putnam.
- Check out the photo of Andrew and his family that John mentions in the episode.
- Get Andrew’s book, Disconnected.
- Check out some of Robert Putnam’s books, also mentioned in this episode: American Grace (2012); Better Together (2004)
“I just had a cracking conversation with Australia’s ‘social capital’ expert Dr Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fenner and Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities. We explored the sad decline of community connectedness in Australia, the remarkable effect church attendance has on volunteering and philanthropy in this country (for secular as well as religious causes), the logic of seeing ‘advancing religion’ as a genuine charitable cause, and the importance of street parties for your neighbourhood!” — John Dickson
More on Andrew’s updated research on Australia’s social connections:
- Read the Sydney Morning Herald article that outlines more of Andrew’s research: “Loneliness is a problem we can only tackle together.”
- Organise a street party! Here’s some tips from Andrew Leigh, including a template invitation.
- Neighbour Day — it’s a thing. Relationships Australia is encouraging people to get together with their neighbours on Neighbour Day, which they have declared as Sunday 29 March 2020. There’s a bunch of resources to help you get started connecting with your neighbours, here.
- Why not consider giving blood. Find out how (it’s really easy … and remember the snacks!) here.
- Read Alain De Botton’s Religion for Atheists
- Read this article from Centre For Public Christianity’s Natasha Moore about churches and tax exemptions (which also gives a shout out to our ‘phone a friend’ guest this episode, Anne Robinson).
- Meet Anne Robinson, who gave us a rundown on churches and tax.
- Curious about charities and the category of ‘Advancing religion’. Head to the ACNC website to find out more.
- Read the parable of The Good Samaritan.
Get to know our guest
Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT. Prior to being elected in 2010, Andrew was a professor of economics at the Australian National University. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. His books include Disconnected (2010), Battlers and Billionaires (2013), The Economics of Just About Everything (2014), The Luck of Politics (2015), Choosing Openness: Why Global Engagement is Best for Australia (2017) and Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World (2018). Andrew is a keen marathon runner, and hosts a podcast titled “The Good Life: Andrew Leigh in Conversation”, which is available on Apple Podcasts.