The window through which we view the world: The association of religion and the meaning of leisure in contemporary Australia.
Griffith University, School of Leisure Management,
One assumption that underlies much of the contemporary discussion of the meaning of leisure is the association of leisure with freedom. To some people, leisure has a quality that divorces it from society and places it above, and free from, the everyday demands and pressures of life. In contrast, discussions concerning religion suggest that religion pervades into all aspects of day-to-day living including leisure. Whether the focus is on religious institutions or personal expressions of religion, religion is generally considered an influential force on life. On the surface, perceptions of leisure and religion appear to be quite distinct and unrelated concepts. However, there are many occasions when leisure and religion deal with essentially similar elements of life. For example, many people participate in religious activities during their leisure time or alternatively, many people seek religious/spiritual experiences through their leisure activities. While there has been substantial research into both leisure and religion, few studies have focused on the interrelationships or the similarity and consequently, there is a gap in the understanding of these concepts. The purpose of this study is to help fill this void by exploring the relationships between religion and leisure in contemporary Australia.
In order to explore this problem, two interlinking research processes were incorporated into the research design. The first phase involved developing the Leisure Meaning Inventory from the four categories of leisure meanings identified by Watkins (1999). This phase also involved the trialing of the various scales used to measure religion namely: religiosity; Christian belief/orthodoxy; denomination; frequency of attendance and prayer; intrinsic religiosity, extrinsic religiosity; and, quest. Each of these measures were administered to several focus groups, and a pilot study.
The second phase of the research involved administering the refined instruments to a sample of 475 residents of Brisbane, Australia. The responses to the questionnaires were subsequently studied and analysed using the SPSS data analysis software program. Four important findings concerning leisure and religion were identified. These were:
The meaning of leisure in contemporary society appeared to be largely unaffected by religion; however,
Religion was associated with the meaning of leisure, when leisure was perceived to be an opportunity for achieving fulfilment in life;
The meaning of leisure was affected by gender; and,
The Leisure Meaning Inventory was demonstrated to be an effective and useful measure of leisure meaning.
It was concluded that leisure was perceived as an aspect of life that did not require a religious response and consequently, the meanings that religious people associated with leisure were no different from those of non-religious members of the population. This finding provided general support for current theories of leisure, which associate leisure with perceptions of freedom. It was also concluded, that when leisure and religion were both focused towards self-fulfilment and actualisation, then religion did have a significant effect. Some people may use leisure experiences as opportunities to gain religious benefits. This approach to leisure may be expressed through: participation in religious duties; seeking out alternative non-traditional religious experiences; or, aspects of religion becoming the leisure experience itself.
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