Oz tax payers support Dawkins & Hitchins attendance at Athiest Convention

The State of Victoria is using Australian tax payers hard earned money to fund the Global Atheist Convention, ”A Celebration of Reason”,  which willl host the leading proponents of New Athiesm Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. The organisers of the convention are billing the four speakers as the ‘four horsemen of the anti-apoclaypse.’

‘The Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau has confirmed that state government funding will be provided to the convention, which they expect to attract 2500 people…the convention would deliver an economic boost to the state of $7.6 million.

According to The Age newspaper:

‘One of the four, American author and academic Daniel Dennett, told The Sunday Age that the horsemen theme was ”amusing” and confirmed that, apart from one videotaped meeting in Christopher Hitchens’s apartment about five years ago, they had ”never shared a podium before”.

Mr Dennett said that their collective message was getting through because ”no-religion” is the fastest growing category worldwide.

”What is particularly important is that the number of public, unapologetic, atheists is growing. The visibility of today’s atheists is a new feature, and we urge everybody who agrees to ‘come out’,” he said.

Atheist foundation president David Nicholls said the ”four horsemen” would ”attract people from everywhere on the planet” to the April 2012 convention. ”It will be the biggest global event for atheism ever, and it probably won’t be repeated,” he said.

Protect the Pope comment: In the run up to Pope Benedict’s state visit one of the main complaints of the New Athiests was that tax payers money was being used to part fund the visit. Even when local councils pointed out the expected economic benefits to the local economy of the pope’s visit, the New Atheists and their allies ignored them and endlessly droned on about tax payers money. They also ignored the fact that Catholics are tax payers,and that the Church was a major contributor to the cost to the State visit, initiated by the Government’s invitation.
What complete hypocrisy, therefore,for the likes of Dawkins and Hitchins to be funded by the tax payers of the State of Victoria. After all they are representatives of a faith group, scientism, a faith not shared by the majority of Australians. Shouldn’t their visit be completely funded by their follower,particulalrly during this time of financial hardship?
To be honest, Idon’t have a problem with the New Atheists receiving tax payers support for their convention, because even though I disagree with their world view and their extreme anti-Catholic bigotry, I uphold their right to meet, enjoy each others company and have a free exchange of ideas.
I would like to challenge them to do one thing at their global convention – pretend that religion doesn’t exist for four days and lets see if New Atheism can stand on its own two feet as a world view and way of life. Lets see if they can talk about the meaning of life and morality without the crutch of anti-religious polemic and playing to the bigotry of their extemist contingent.
I’d like to think that Dawkins and co are capable of this but I can’t see them managing it, because they’ve made too much money playing to the anti-religion mob and they’ve turned atheism into a circus act.

60 comments to Oz tax payers support Dawkins & Hitchins attendance at Athiest Convention

  • Tim

    For the record, I would be against this recieving tax payer support. As as matter of secular principle, the state should be neutral in such matters. I suppose you could argue that they need tax payer support because religions get it also, but I’d prefer a simpler system where noone gets it.

    “I would like to challenge them to do one thing at their global convention – pretend that religion doesn’t exist for four days and lets see if New Atheism can stand on its own two feet as a world view and way of life.”

    -I don’t think you understand atheism. It is not a way of life in the same way as a religion can be. It is essentially “non-theism”. If religion didn’t exist then neither would atheism. A society without religion would not be an atheist society it would be a post-theistic society. Athesim might “clear a space” in a non-believer’s mind for other things that provide meaning, morality and spiritual fulfilment (for example, music, art, science, friends and family, human rights, humanism, emphathy with others), but it does not and cannot of itself provide an alternative way of life. the whole point of atheism to my mind isn’t that it provides any answers of itself, it merely sweeps away a load of superficially appealing but ultimately fake answers and non-answers and leaves the non-believer with the difficult, demanding (and sometimes lonely and confusing, but ultimately, I would hope, satistfying) task of figuring their values and morals for themselves. Religion is different in that it demands of the believer faith (and to my mind that is a huge ask) but in return it provides the believer with a set of ready-made values. I can certainly understand why it is so appealing to many people.

    Therefore the idea of a “atheist convention” to my mind is a bit of an odd notion. There IS absolutely nothing of substance in atheism itself. It is no more than being non-religious. But I suppose atheists are human too with exactly the same need for community and connection with other people as others and if the convention helps people find a sense of community with like minded individuals then I wish them luck. There is also the political aspect to this in that if atheists come out and if people see that they are normal human beings with morals and without horns then prehaps they will be more accepted.

    • SpeSalvi23

      Post-theistic society!!??
      What the … ??
      I don’t know if I should laugh or cry… or both… ??

      Sorry… without God -> religion, NO society would exist, which would then make this entire discussion futile and non existent.
      And! If you want to be an atheist, at least have the guts to call yourself one.

      Sure, poor atheists, they’re so discriminated against -> support group needed.
      Right.

      I don’t believe it! After all those months of discussions, believers are still regarded as superficial, weak creatures who can’t figure out the world for themselves and who need a pre-subscribed set of values to live by -> brainless little sheep?!
      Of course they don’t think or doubt or search or question. And they accept everything without reflection.
      All those fake anwsers that they have!! How uncultured!!

      On the other side we have the all so grown up and far more rational, intellectual, educated, free and surely much more liberal and – most important part: tolerant – atheists.

      This view is so shallow and so simple and so worn out, it borders on arrogant and is extremely insulting!!

      • Pedro

        “I don’t believe it! After all those months of discussions, believers are still regarded as superficial, weak creatures who can’t figure out the world for themselves and who need a pre-subscribed set of values to live by -> brainless little sheep?!”

        SpeSalvi23 – I couldn’t have put it better myself!

      • Rhino

        Why wouldn’t a society exist without god or religion? Are you so confident that religion is require for a society to function without it? Can you prove that assertion?

        • Karla

          Can you provide any historical examples of societies that functioned without persecution that were non religious?

          And it does not count if you name a society or a number of people rather, who live in a society that was founded and based on religious values.

      • Tim

        “Post-theistic society!!??
        What the … ??”

        All I mean is that atheism is only able to define itself against theism (As I understand it that was Nick’s charge, and one that I fully accept as true) and if you don’t have theism (unlikley, I known) then it would inaccurate to call such a society “atheistic”. Another word would be needed. Post-theistic is one word that has beem suggested, although of course in such a society the idea of religion or non-religion would one imagines seldom come up in conversation. Atheism must neccessitate the rejection of theism. That is why it is inaccurate to regard infants who are too young to either believe or disbelieve as atheists. If you like they are pre-theists (or pre-atheists)

        “If you want to be an atheist, at least have the guts to call yourself one.” I do call myself an atheist. I wasn’t suggesting that post-theist is an appropriate label for me or anyone else on the plannet at the moment.

        “I don’t believe it! After all those months of discussions, believers are still regarded as superficial, weak creatures who can’t figure out the world for themselves and who need a pre-subscribed set of values to live by -> brainless little sheep?!”

        I don’t regard believes as weak or brainless or irrational. I would have hoped that these months of discussion has made that point clear. If I thought you were brainless, I wouldn’t have spend so long in discussion with you. I do think that the answers that religion gives you are fake non-answers but please don’t take that personally. I’d hate you to find offense in my disbelief per se or in my voicing my disbelief as I am affraid that I can’t do very much about that.

        I am prepared to accept that their are religious “truths” that you deeply and seriously committed to and can’t imagine being fake. Equally, I hope that you can appreciate that those same “truths” appear to me as blindlingly obviously fakes. The “truths” are the same so why do we differ so much in our response to them. I don’t think it is a question of either one of us having a poor understanding of those truths as is sometimes suggested, or either of us being stupid, or rebellious or stubon or evil. It is simply that you have faith and I do not. And neither of those things are likely to change. So how do we get along in a shared world – well as would suggest secularism whereby neither of us gains an advantage over the other by our faith/lack of faith.

    • Teresa

      “normal human beings with morals and without horns”

      An odd statement – no one of genuine faith (note I say genuine) would claim an atheist has no morals, nor would they consider them demonic – all made in the image, remember!

      “more accepted” – as human beings, I hardly thing they are not accepted – many are however aggressively pushing atheism. So if atheism has “absolutely nothing of substance in itself”, why push it? why not just simply live out ones life? This convention does sound like more than just a support group.

      But dont get me wrong – I have nothing against atheists holding a convention, if they feel they need one. But atheists should beware of holding double standards. The Papal visit to the UK was a state visit. I do understand why atheist would object to funding it with taxpayers money. However, a state visit is a little different to this convention.

      I do have a question for you Tim – where you think morals come from? I ask because you speak of atheists “figuring their values and morals for themselves”. Morals can only be morals if they have common value. If they are individual then they can be little more than personal choices. How do you qualify what a “moral” is?

      • Tim

        “I do have a question for you Tim – where you think morals come from?”

        well I got mine from my Mum and Dad.

        • Karla

          Th question of where somebody got their morals from is kind of pointless, the argument is the truth of objective morality over the untruth of subjective morality which is contradictory.

      • Tim

        “normal human beings with morals and without horns”

        An odd statement – no one of genuine faith (note I say genuine) would claim an atheist has no morals, nor would they consider them demonic – all made in the image, remember!”

        But that is exactly what you yourself imply a few lines down with your attack on my idea that a human being can arrive a morals without supernatural inspiratuon!

        “many are however aggressively pushing atheism. So if atheism has “absolutely nothing of substance in itself”, why push it? why not just simply live out ones life?”

        Well, most non-believers do just get on with their lives. Very very few are actively pushing atheism in the sense of trying to talk other people out of their beliefs. Most atheists you meet you will not even know that they are atheists.

  • Karla

    If this is being funded by the Government, then religious conventions should be funded by the government, ALL religious conventions, that is only fair.

    Dawkins is a total hypocrite, he’ll bask with his own ilk, but he will not debate arguably, the best Christian debater when he comes to the UK this October.

  • Karla

    A whole convention dedicated to athiests trying to comfort themselves in there belief of no God.

    How many times do they have to try to prove to themselves theres no God until they move on.

    • Rhino

      We want to disprove gods existence about as often as we get bashed around the ears, and occasionally over the head, with comments such as: we are immoral, heathen, satanic (that is so funny being called satanic, you have to accept the existence of god to worship the devil), baby roasting, we bath in the blood of virigns, that we hate god (weird, we hate something that doesn’t exist) and so on ad nauseum. There is some comfort in spending time with people, avoiding this and being able to laugh at the (usually Young Earth Creationsist) that show up and harass us.

      What we do at such a convention is discuss a variety of things from the experiences of a woman growing up in a devout muslim world (and that is awful stuff to hear), to advances in science and moral philosphy, lots of humour and maybe a bit of theatre illusion and show and then we get to met and see some very accomplished and well spoken people. We also get to meet fellow atheists (and the occasionaly agnostic) and socialise and have a bit of fun. Just like, say a comic convention or an accounting convention (yawn at that).

      Oh and FYI, it is impossible to conclusively prove a negative (i.e. there is no god). So why would we try to disprove god?

      • Karla

        Oh come on, who says such things about atheists. Few, many atheists make snide remarks about religious believers. I find it funny that an atheist convention is like a religious convention/event. i.e. gather in groups at meeting times, speeches, ideas promoted, reasons for trying to validate belief. Rejoice over converts.

        What you probably think is a, and I am paraphrasing here, a rational social convention, is actually very religious in so many ways.

        You have this us against them mentality as described in your comment about young Earth creationists harassing you and you laughing at them.

        Why would you laugh at them? I think that is pretty pathetic.

        The appeal to universal negatives does not work. The atheist has to look at the evidence, if the evidence does not allow to make such claims, it does not offer reasons to disbelieve in God. Look at the evidence and make an assessment.

        If you want to prove something, its up to you to prove it, ”X exists” an ”X does not exist” are convertible and can be plugged in to the same logical formulas.

  • SpeSalvi23

    NO, they can’t.
    No, they won’t.

  • OzAtheist

    Not complete hypocrisy. The two main complaints were 1) the inordinately substantial amount spent by the government on the Pope’s visit, and 2) the, at the time, fact that the government wouldn’t spend a cent on an atheist ‘get together’ (which was proved when the AFA asked for funds for the first GAC in 2010 and were refused).

    As far as I know the AFA is only receiving about $2.5M for the 2012 GAC, how much did the church get for the Pope’s visit?

    • Deacon Nick

      We not comparing like with like are we? The Holy Father is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics and Head of State. Also, the British government invited Pope Benedict to undertake the state visit. The OZ atheist convention represents a small group, and is not a state event. You are expecting 2, 500 to attend. Around 500,000 attended papal events during the four days in the UK.

  • Davo

    Benedict XVI had his accommodation and (massive) security paid for by his hosts and the taxpayers had to come up with 100 million dollars more than the original $129 million according to the Auditor General “the estimated final cost for World Youth Day is six times the original budget estimate.” and that with all the added costs “the true budget will probably never be known”. With the expected 225,000 visitors, a target it didn’t meet, it was supposed to bring in $150 million. So straight away we lost money there. Not only that, but the tourism department’s figures indicate that the event actually ended up costing Sydney some 63,000 visitors who preferred not to spend their holiday in a city full of fervent teenagers. Now add the fact that free travel and overnight accommodation was provided for by the state free of charge in state schools (which is a large slab of income from tourists), $41 million in public funds was paid to the race track where the event was held, $20 million was spent on security. Not included here is the cost of providing emergency services and other provisions.

    Of course, this had been pointed out in the start. It is one thing to get funding, it is another to have the income supposedly generated by it to be wiped out by the taxpayers footing accommodation costs, security and travel and other expenses that are supposed to bring money in to the state.

    You do also realise atheism is a reaction against the insanity of religion that exists today, not a world view dogma don’t you? I mean, you want to look like you know what you are talking about? The whole reaction is due to the influences of religion, it is not about ‘the meaning of life’, it is a reaction to the religious nutjobs claims and the rights they demand for those claims.

    • Deacon Nick

      My understanding is quite a lot of ‘atheists’ don’t like being called ‘atheists’ because they don’t want to be defined by thiesm? But according to you, and others, ‘atheism’ is just a protest movement,and has nothing more to offer? How boring being defined by your antagonism to the beliefs of theists. Over the past 2,000 years we’ve met your types before, we’re still hereand will be in another 2,000 years, unless Jesus returns in glory. You’ve already lost

  • Donovan

    Your article would be better if it didn’t make stuff up. ‘representatives of a faith group, scientism’? What this shows is you have a clear lack of understanding of what atheism is. ‘a faith not shared by the majority of Australians’. Atheism is not a faith. Again, you show no understanding. But I’ll tell you one thing about what the majority of us Australian’s believe – we believe when we’re sick, we should go to the doctor, not a priest. When we need an operation, we have it in a hospital, not a church. You think the majority of Australian’s don’t believe in science? All evidence to the contrary.

  • Challenge accepted!
    Of COURSE atheism can’t stand on its own two feet as a world-view and way of life.
    That’s the point of the convention: we wish we didn’t have to hold them!!! We’d LOVE for there to be nothing from the religious to kick back against.
    We all long for a world free of the undue influence of religion, so we can shut up about the topic and go do something else!
    NSC

    • Deacon Nick

      I didn’t realise how impoverished New Athiesm was! I had assumed that you had a definite understanding of the world, that your morality derived from something more than opposition to Christian morality. Or could it be that you think your way of looking at the world is the only way of looking at the world, as is not a hermeneutic? You don’t even know that you are applying a set of principles to interpret the world around you?

      • Tim

        “I didn’t realise how impoverished New Athiesm was! I had assumed that you had a definite understanding of the world, that your morality derived from something more than opposition to Christian morality”

        I still don’t think you undertand atheism. It doesn’t have a morality in opposition to Christian morality because atheism doesn’t have a morality at all. It is a-moral (NOTE not immoral).

        It seems to me that Christianity and Catholicism especially is a huge and complex ediface of morals, ideas, reasoning, rules, history, community, athority and tradition resting on a few faith-based premises. Maybe you are so used to such a world view that it is difficult to understand something different, but atheism isn’t a corresponding ediface resting on different (or opposite) premises. It is simply the position that your edifice as build on false premsies. Nothing more nothing less.

  • Cameron Bonde

    I’m pretty sure the first atheist convention was not funded by the government, but around the same time another large religious convention was funded. That was the complaint. The funding is purely based on economic benefit to the state, so ‘hard earned tax payers funds’ are actually getting multiplied by funding large conventions, regardless of the subject.

  • Pedro

    “I didn’t realise how impoverished New Athiesm was!”

    Tim must speak for himself. I have a beautiful picture of the baby Dawkins on the wall, his birth being heralded by choirs of geneticists. Right next to that I have an engraving of the false god, Grayling, being tortured forever in the deepest pit of Saint Peters, where he is condemned to say the rosary for all eternity.

    As the world ends this weekend, I fully expect him to ascend into the great laboratory in the sky, where he will sit at the right hand of Darwin the Father. From thence, he will come in glory to very shrilly judge the logical from the illogical.

    In the meantime, wherever two or more are gathered together in His name, they shall break bread – maybe some of that nice tiger bread that all the supermarkets do these days, accompanied by some soft cheese and a nicely chilled bottle of Chablis, where lesbian priestesses (for clearly only they can have the power) transform the bread and wine into the mitochondria and DNA of our saviour, Richard Dawkins.

    By the laying on of hands, generation after generation will pass this holy power on so that the faithful may know for certain that our saviour is truly with us in a very physical and meaningful sense.

    Nah – only kidding. Who’d be daft enough to believe something as crazy as that!

  • fd

    Sorry this is off-topic, or maybe not that off-topic since I’m talking about “impoverished atheists”.
    The other day La Repubblica published a schocking editorial, an editorial which was characterized by an unthinkable poisonous unthinkable violence against the Church. I mean I’m used to cheap shots against the Church from La Repubblica but I had always thought that many progressive dailies are much worse as far as their coverage of the Church( i.e Guardian , nyt). Evidently La Repubblica must be a bit chip on the shoulder as far as its anglo-saxon counterparts are concerned.
    Francesco Merlo wrote on La Repubblca on Wednesday that he’s fed up about people blaming padophile priests. According to him padohile priests are good men who have become padophile just because they have followed the rule of celibacy. He went on to say that there aren’t good priests in Italy anymore, and that _he says- Bishops are coward when it comes to pedophile priests because they see themselves in them. I was schocked, I had never read anything like that,not even on the british anti-catholic publications,I didn’t think I would read it on La Repubblica. I was schocked because of all this hatred and ignorance spouted by nonetheless than the second most influential daily in Italy. Francesco Merlo is an ignorant person and a liar because: first of all: either he is retarded or he pretends not to understand a sheer fact which is as simple as that: there’s no evidence whatsoever that celibacy is linked to pedophilia( a US study published by Avvenire even shows that this is true on a scientific level) but also on an empirical basis abuses within the family, by teachers and by trainers (in sports) are much more frequent and abuses by priests are extremely rare(even thoughe even one is too much but this not the point in my reasoning here).Second : Merlo is totally ignorant as far as reality is concerned. I personally know lots of priests both in small towns and big cities like Milan, who work so hard for children, and for poor people. We all know that priests work almost for free and I do know many of them personally(including two of them who are in South America, one of them risks is life everyday)and I know how much they devote themselves to others.
    In the article Merlo even attacks Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian Bishops’ conference, who -that very day- was in Lampedusa to be near to poor immigrants and he was there with food to help.
    So, it’s really sad the a newspaper which claims to be one of Italy’s best publication and which is actually influential, is so low and mean. La Repubblica doesn’t usually attacks the Church on padophile priests. Generally it attacks the Church on money: the tactics is always that of trying to show the Italians that the Church is interested in money(even though the data provided by the daily to attack the Church are always very superficial, for instance a couple of weeks ago the survey by La Repubblica which attacked a Catholic organization which provides homeless and children without parents with a home and assistance was torn apart by Avvenire). Nevertheless this is really disgusting because the publisher of La Repubblica, who also owns other publications such as the magazine L’Espresso rivals Berlusconi in wealth).
    And La Repubblica itself is a milionaire empire which has headquartiers in Rome, Milan, Turin, Genua, Florence, Parma, Bologna, Naples, Bari and Palermo. So La Repubblica attacking the Church is the powerful who takes it out on the powerless. And in recent time, it’s doing this with an unusual violence and disrespect for the truth. Someone would ask themselves why…

  • DET

    First, I would agree with you that state sponsorship of an Atheist convention without equal support of theist events is wrong.
    I don’t know much of the “new” atheism, so I can’t comment on what they are about, but atheism to me is a lack of belief in any gods. This doesn’t imply a world view in of itself,that I know of, it’s a personal view. Guess I’m just an old atheist.
    I think Mr Dawkins would be able to discuss morality, human rights or any other subject devoid of religious references or bashing, I at least hope he could.
    I for one don’t mind being called an atheist,though I do confess, I don’t understand “being defined by theism”. With that lable comes a lot of prejudice and hate. I had a good friend find out I was an atheist, then look at me and say “I thought you were a good person”. Now he won’t talk to me at all.
    I personally have no problem with Christian morality, as such. I didn’t dispose of my morals, that were taught to me by Christian parents, when I dismissed my faith. The golden rule is the foundation of natural law and true morality. I am the same man I always was.
    I agree though it is all getting out of hand. Extremism on both sides makes it hard for open and honest dialogue. Without knowledge and understanding, we all continue to be ignorant of each other. Ignorance breeds fear, which leads to prejudice. I respect everyone until they give a reason not to, but this can be hard when I get attacked for a “lack” of belief.
    Your last comment Deacon, about hermeneutics has given me something to think about. I will be taking a step back to review my way of looking at things and how I interpret the world. My father told me you can always learn something from people we meet.
    If you must call it a circus, please, at least let me sit with the dancing bears and not the clowns.
    {disclaimer: that was vain attempt at humor}

  • Gerry

    The thing is, most of ‘us’ don’t think about it, and if we do don’t care. Its called Anglicanism. Sort of British Shinto ;o)

  • Mike2

    Tim said:
    “Athesim might “clear a space” in a non-believer’s mind for other things that provide meaning, morality and spiritual fulfilment (for example, music, art, science, friends and family, human rights, humanism, empathy with others)..”
    I don’t quite understand this statement. It’s the bit about atheism clearing a space for all those things. It’s not clear what that means. It seems to suggest that without the ‘space’ that atheism creates, people can’t have those other things. I’ve probably misinterpreted the statement. Perhaps you could make it clearer what you mean.
    As to morality, that’s one thing that you cannot get with your ‘space’. All you can get is a set of rules about how you decide you want to live your life. But those rules are rules that you decide to have and therefore you have no duty to obey them. Without the element of duty your rules are just preferences, not morality. As you say, each atheist works out for himself what his preferences are. There cannot be any rules which are binding on other people. So, if I were an atheist and my ‘morality’ says that I can be totally selfish then there is no way that any other atheist can say that my ‘morality’ is any way ‘wrong’. Nor can there be any such thing as ‘human rights’ except in so far as they are defined by law. (Because where do your human rights come from?) So, if something is not laid down by the law then it cannot, for an atheist, be a human right because it has no foundation. After all, if I have a right then you have an obligation towards me and as you have acknowledged, every atheist has to work out their own rules for themselves because there is no other way they can do it. As soon as you start talking about human rights (in some extra-legal sense) you have to acknowledge something beyond ourselves that is binding upon us.

    • Tim

      what do I mean by “clear a space” in ones mind?

      Well I don’t mean that you can’t have human rights or music or science with religion. I mean that religion certainly fulfills a role in the lives of many people (I would say that this is why it survives dispite a lack of evidence for it being true) and that when that religion is rejected, people often find that their lives are not as “empty” as they has perhaps feared (or perhaps as you might imagine on their behalf) because they can usually quite easily fill the “religion shaped gap” with other things. It is difficult to generalise because all people are different, but it whilst it is true that for some people they are never able to satistfactorality fill the religion shaped gap in their lives there are many others who fill that gap remarkably well and in fact find that the things that they know to be true in this world (the love for their family and other personal relationships being top of the list for many people) become more fulfilling without religous hopes for something beyond. Many many atheists who write about their loss of faith decribe a bracingly hygenic feeling of excitement at facing the world when their beliefs fall away. I guess it is down to temprament, but whilst some find religion comforting, others find it suffocating and its loss allows them to engage with other aspects of their lives all the more fully.

  • Im not formally associated with the Atheist Convention, but Im an enthusiastic supporter of Atheism in its wide variety of forms, and I warmly invite you to visit Melbourne and attend the event next year.

    I do agree that tax-payer funding of events such as this should be in proportion to the number of supporters in the general community, and be apportioned according to popularity, economic benefits and so on – by this rule the funding for Atheist events would be far below par when compared to the funding for Christian or Catholic events. The 222 million per year for Christian Chaplains to provide religious instruction in Australian schools certainly drowns out any small amount the government has ever put behind Atheist events.

    All Atheists are asking for is a fair footing, taking into account the current mix of religious beliefs in the community.

    As for morals – there are good morals to be had from a rational non-religious philosophy. Causing harm to another human being is immoral, for example – and harm can be measured biologically. Taking a life is immoral for the same reasons. Hunting a species to extinction is immoral. As custodians of the planet, humans have a moral obligation to do what can be done to protect species and the environment, to protect historical artefacts, to not use up all the oil thus depriving future generations etc. Freedom of speech follows from the traditional search for truth that science has at its core – ie. how can I be sure that the truth is found if everyone is not able to raise questions?

    The arguments for a rational morality are many and draw deeply from the physical and biological sciences, including evolution – and for this reason they offer a stronger imperative than religious morals. For example using condoms is clearly a good approach to preventing the spread of aids in africa, and I do wish the church would revisit this as I believe it is not fundamentally inconsistent with Jesus’ philosophy.

    The idea that Atheists can have no morals is simply untrue, a divisive misconception. Once more ‘normal’ people come out as Atheists this myth will be busted once and for all.

    Most ‘moderate’ educated Christians would have similar morals to Atheists on many issues – forgiveness, empathy, acceptance, kindness, sharing are no less at the core of Atheist morals than they are the core of morals you would attribute to Jesus’ teachings.

    Stem cell research, weapons of mass destruction, over-population, longer lifespan, the internet – all these did not exist at the time the bible was written, so even christians must apply thought and discussion to extrapolate moral ideas to be relevant in this the 21st century.

    Atheism is not impoverished at all – just as we can enjoy the great works and have contributed to them, we can look at the natural world and feel immense feeling of transcendant wonderment at the universe and know mans place within it. As we understand the universe more deeply through science, our desire to act morally is deepened as we see how precious this planet and how blessed we are to be its custodians – we the dominant species, promoted by eons upon eons of trial-and-error evolution.

    • Deacon Nick

      Hi Gordon, I agree with you that atheists in Australia, and elsewhere should receieve grants from governments on a fair footing with faith groups. I’m all for the state supporting the free and fair exchange of ideas. Though I don’t share your atheist position, I support people meeting together to advance human thinking and community. Even if I think some of your ideas are wrong, the discussion between theism and atheism, or non religion, can help the development of thought.

      I hope my post did not give the impression that I think that atheists have no morals, because that is not my understanding. I’m interested to learn what principals atheists use as a basis for moral decisions. Thank you for your reflections on this. You write that ‘causing harm to another human being is immoral’. I’d be interested to understand how you define who a human being is? As a Catholic I define human life as beginning at conception, and therefore a conceptus, embryo and fetus is a developing human being. Reason and faith inform this definition.

      I think atheism is wrong is some fundamental ways but I don’t think it is impoverished, there have been some profound atheist thinkers. However, I do think the New Atheism is impoverished by the polemic verging on bigotry of certain celebrity atheists.

      Thank you for your invitation to the convention in 2012. I lived in Australia as a young child and have a great fondness for your wonderful country.

      • You’ve raised the question ‘When does an embryo with human DNA become a human being?” [ and thus is it moral or immoral to prevent that embryo from continuing, eg via abortion ]

        I think science can inform that question. Like everyone, I have seen pictures of how an embryo develops in gradual stages in a continuum from two distinct cells which have potential for life, to a fertilised egg, to an embryo with a nervous system which might likely feel pain and warmth in the normal sense, to a fully developed baby at term.

        From this we might draw reasonable conclusions, taking into account the state of the mother and embryo, such as :
        - contraception is preferable to abortion in general
        [ one must face the reality humans are built for reproduction, so abstinence is largely unachievable ]
        - if abortion is to be performed, it should be performed earlier rather than later and by a trained physician
        - viable alternatives should be provided to the mother, so she can make the best informed decision, with help from her doctor and community support

        Those who believe that an embryo at age N weeks has developed enough to constitute a feeling human being [ and therefore should have the right to life ], have a moral imperative to support the mother so that she has the option of having the baby if she chooses. As a society, we do have an obligation to come to a legal consensus as to what N should be, and this should be informed by science.

        I personally believe it is immoral for the catholic church to not promote contraception as a better alternative to abortion, given your belief that a fertilised human embryo ‘has the right to life’.

        • Karla

          You can’t say what the Catholic Church teaches is immoral because you are a relativist. *rolls eyes* But you have it wrong, the Catholic Church does not promote contraception or abortion.

          Sex is not like breathing, or eating or drinking, abstinence is very achievable. Common sense and hard statistics provide enough reasons for why abstinence should be promoted.

          Each of us experiences developmental changes, this has not imparted us to our humanity. A fetus is fully human. It is a sexual product of its parents. It is a unique individual with 23 chromosomes, it has its own genetics code of 46 chromosomes, the genetic make up is established at conception, hair colour, eye colour etc. For growth and development It needs oxygen food, water etc.

          • Karla, indeed my morals are relative – relative to the current understanding of science – as are yours.

            Your definition of a human, in terms of its chromosomal makeup, makes use of relatively recent scientific discoveries. In arriving at our different moral conclusions, we both agree that genes are encoded in structures of DNA, and these genes give rise to a human rather than another kind of living organism.

            Your morals are clearly based on this definition, and hence are relative to the current state of science.

            The difference is I dont claim that my morals are absolute, based upon private communication with a supreme being.

          • Deacon Nick

            They are public communications from God, not private communications.

          • Tim

            Really? I’m inclined to agree with Tom Paine on the subject of revelation:

            “As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

            No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

            It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.”

          • Deacon Nick

            Jesus Christ did not receive revelation from God He is revelation. As the Son of God He is not just a historical person but an eternal person who Christians encounter to this day and for all time, in many different ways. First hand, not second hand.

    • Karla

      Actually it is very bad moral sense for condoms in Africa because condoms have a 15% failure rate, there is empirical evidence they have contributed to the HIV/AIDS crisis as HIV/AIDS went up as they were promoted. There is evidence Catholic populations in Africa have lower HIV/AIDS rates and there is evidence the promotion of abstinence, fidelity and monogamy has helped HIV/AIDS to decease.

      Christians do not believe Christians are only moral people in the world, the Bible says that God has given every human being intuitive moral intuition. But rape for example is not just a socially unacceptable behavior, or socially advantageous so it has become taboo, because neither of those prove rape is really wrong, on the atheistic view if you can escape the social consequences of raping somebody there is nothing wrong with raping somebody. But objective morals do exist, rape is a moral abomination. Some things really are wrong.

      Subjective morality is only the beginning of the irrationality of atheism.

      • Tim

        “on the atheistic view if you can escape the social consequences of raping somebody there is nothing wrong with raping somebody”

        Sorry but that is certainly not the atheistic view. Rape is wrong because of the harm it does to the victim. causing harm to others is wrong. It is as simple as that.

        And it ought to be possible to settle this argument once and for all anyway because rapes are counted. If your hypothesis were correct atheists would be more likely to rape people than Christians. Is there any evidence for this? NO. Until you have such evidence then stop making such offensive remarks about people you do not understand. perhaps it is ungrounded slurs on the character of atheists like this that make some want to hold conferences where they can fantasise of a world free of religion.

        • Karla

          So it is a slur now to criticize ‘subjective morality?’

          You can’t criticize anything as ‘wrong’ as a relativist if there is no objective standard. Without God there is no absolute right or wrong which imposes itself.

          • Tim

            It is not a slur to criticise subjective morality. It IS a slur, and a hugely common one from religious folks, to accuse someone of applying subjective morality when he does nothing of the sort. What is subjective about holding the principle of treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself? Isn’t that a moral principle that is more universally held across time and space and therefore more objective than anything specifc to one particular religion?

            I would say that it is a much more universal principle and all the better for it then resting your moral principles on a religious faith. A moral pinciple resting on a religious faith is truely subjective because it is dependent on that faith and different people have different faiths. It is better to base your moral principles on universal human principles (supported by our common abilities to think through consequences, argue with each others and empathise with others) which are accessible to all then to base them on religious principles and then pretend that those religious principles are accessible to all when they most certainly are not.

            It is nonsesce to say that I cannot critice anything as “wrong” when a few posts up I have criticised rape as wrong. I have pretty strong views on a range of moral issues most of which will be in agreement with you and most of which will be in agreement with every other person on the planet.

            people make objective moral judgements all the time without reference to religion. If you genuinely want to encourage the spread of moral behaviour in others, I would suggest that a stategy of belittling their judgements as “subjective” is hardly a sensible way to proceed.

            This objective/subjective nonsence does seem to have been given renewed life recently by the current Pope, but it is as poor an argument as it has always been. There seems to be a lazy thinking that encourages Catholics to dismiss an opinion as subjective when their real problem with it is it is simply that they disagree with it, often on perfectly rational grounds. The solution to that disagreement should be argument, pursuasion, looking for better evidence etc. It is a more difficult and more frustrating approach to take but much more likely to work in the long run then merely trying to impose your version of morality on the grounds that you, because of a faith (that others do not share), think it is superior.

            The irony here is that the strongest forces in the world today pushing for “subjective morality” are not the secularists or the atheists, but the well meaning but wrong-headed cultural relativists who are bending over backwards to accomodate the vocal demands of religion to be exempted from the normal rules of society in no other basis other than the fact that they are religious. Examples of real subjective morality are things like “it is wrong to beat your wife in our culture, but we need to be respectful of religious traditions that permit it in some circumstances” or “I believe in free speech, but there must be exceptions when we are drawing cartoons of the prophet” or “I believe in equality, but of course there need to be exceptions when it comes to the church employing women and gay people”.

            It *is* subjective to say that a person’s basic rights and obligations as humans depend on their religious affiliation. I do not do that because I am a secularist.

            Morality is difficult. let us not pretend that is isn’t. We do not always get it right either in our determination of the moral course of action or our faithfulness in following it. To err is human. But we are all moral beings and as humans share a morality on every matter of importance (we can argue where that shared morality comes from. You can believe it is from God and i’ll have no quarrel with you on that, Some will say it is evolution – personally, I don’t think we have a complete answer to the question, but that is really a side issue – the point is that observation of the world shows that there is a pretty much universal human morality regardless of where it comes from). It is only by trying our best to determine that moral course of action by reference to universal human principles that we can ever hope to approach a truly universal morality which might be worthy of the term “objective”

      • You dont need any ‘absolute’ moral standard to say rape is wrong.

        Just because there is no absolute morality, doesn’t mean at all that there is no morality.

        My point is that your morality and my morality are both based on our current understanding of the world – by a general knowledge of science, history, influenced by the environment we grew up in and so on – we both have a ‘relative’ morality, and in fact there is no absolute or non-relative morality.

        Morals exist, and good morals exist, without the need for religion to supply them – lets be honest, you use your general knowledge and critical faculties to supply those morals, just as I do. They do not come directly from God, and you can even decide what is right and wrong, quite capably on your own, without having this decreed by the church.

        If justifying morals is the only reason you need religion, feel free to give it up and stand for what you truly believe is right yourself.

  • Michael

    Don’t worry about it. Even if the politicians give some cash to the atheists, they’ll still keep on giving cash to your mob as well. You won’t miss out on a cent.

    Remember, too, the words of Jesus Christ himself, in Mark 16:16 (KJV), when he said “he that believeth not shall be damned,” so it doesn’t matter how much money they get, they’re still going to burn in hell (which should put a smile on every believer’s face).

  • Oh my.
    All those religious types frothing at the mouth! Don’t they realise that’s exactly WHY atheists have conferences! Just to annoy them, as if to say, ‘see, we can get together for a meaningless conversation too’.
    That, and to celebrate that to be atheist is to be free-thinking and capable of facing the reality of the universe without relying on some cuddly teddy bear to protect us from the dark.
    Oh, and if I hear or read one more time that without religion we couldn’t have society or morality I think I will throw up, or at least have another laughing fit.
    Then again, I just realised that all those who might say that to me are now in the arms our lord and saviour, in which place they will be for eternity. Sounds like hell to me.
    Rationalbrain.

  • Mike2

    rationalbrain,

    I’d love to know the answers to the following questions:
    How you found out about this site (and this particular article on the site.) The idea of atheists having nothing better to do than to surf the web looking for religious sites fascinates me. I wonder what the evolutionary/scientific/rational explanation can be.
    What made you want to read the article and the comments underneath?
    What made you want to put your comment on the site? Who is your comment designed to impress/worry/? Do you think that the Catholics who read this site are impressed/worried by your comment? Do you think that your comment makes you come across as a kind, caring, level-headed person?
    But it’s interesting that you think that atheists have conventions just to annoy Christians. That’s the problem with a certain type of atheist: their whole approach to life is based on being negative. Jesus said that he came into the world that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That’s the difference between a Christian and an atheist. A Christian has a positive message. An atheist is basically just negative. Next time you post a comment try to do so in a less emotionally-charged way – and try to say something positive about atheism if you want to, but try to do it without being snide about religion. We’ll respect your comment more if you do it that way.

    • I think your question is wider – why do so many people who might have quietly gone about their business before, and only called themselves agnostic when pressed.. why have these people suddenly got together into a vocal political movement, and why must they feel the need to cry out at every chance ‘Im an Atheist and make I no apology’ ?

      Because we see the Catholic Church not taking responsibility for eradicating sexual abuse by priests,
      because we see religion being disproportionately funded in state schools which are supposed to be secular as outlined in the constitution, and we see our education system being eroded with the thin end of the wedge of mad creationist ideas.

      There is already enough religious inspired discord in the world – We dont want to have religions inciting division within our state schools. It would be immoral to stand by and say nothing when Christian ministries are funded to the tune of 222 million per year and abuse this trust by trying to convert young students to Christianity, having no regard for the diverse makeup of the community – parents from other religions, atheists and agnostics alike.

      I want my child to know the facts about biology and evolution and physics, to get along with people from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and most importantly to question and reason logically. We dont want to have science classes muddied by religious dogma.

      Atheism is a positive movement – It is positive to affirm that I want quality science education, that I want our laws to reflect ethics that are based on science and rationality, medicine that is humane and well considered, an immigration policy that is both moral and sustainable, energy policies that allow for growth while protecting the environment, human rights that are fairly applied to people of all religions [and no religion].

      Yes there is room for creativity and inspiration, but it is science and rational argument that lead to the best choices for our childrens future.

      Thats why we bother to reply to religious disinformation when we see it – there is a chance you’ll listen to reason.

      • Deacon Nick

        Surely what you mean to say is that atheism is a ‘positivist’ movement, that it only takes as real those things that can be registered by the five physical senses.

        By the way, you need to learn to distinguish between types of Christianity and not lump them all together. Catholics would agree with you that science is a separate discipline to religion, with it own autonomous principles. Catholics would not mix dogma with the teaching of biology, evolution or physics. The Catholic Church does not support the teachings of ‘creationism’ in school science.

        If you want to comment on this Catholic site its only polite to get your facts right, because otherwise you come over as ignorant and a bit pompous.

    • DET

      MIKE2
      To answer a few of your questions personally. I found this site by accident, from a search. I noticed an article on how the militant atheist in Spain were threatening attacks on believers during Easter events. I found the article disturbing and threats horrendous. I may not agree with you, but I will stand up for your rights.I wanted to comment on this and let those here know that we are’nt all crazy.
      I read the other atricles here because I’m curious about how you see things and what you have to say. I don’t presume to know everything and Deacon Nick has tought me something while I have been here.
      I’m not here to impress and I certainly hope I don’t worry you folks.
      I am not a negative person. I love my life and this world we live on. I am an atheist because of a lack of belief in gods. To say atheism is negative is the same as saying that not believing in fairies make you negative. The people you refer to are just negative. I think those kind of people are disagreeable to most everything.

  • Damian

    Now that some “reasonable” athiests have thrown cuddly teddy out of the pram your next step (in the scary dark) is to realise that have no faith does not equate to bashing the bible, churches, Christianity in general or other faiths. Sadly looking at the conference website, these “people of reason” are unable to do this. The cartoon & twitter feeds already show the view of atheism through a lens of attacking theists. Not a great start.

    • Deacon Nick

      Sadly this confirms what I think is increasingly obvious, that New Atheism is a hate group that gets off on inciting the rage and prejuidice of its followers against religion and religious believers. It also has a lot in common with the Orange Lodge and KKK in its extreme hatred of Catholics and the Catholic Church.

      I believe that for some people it can be intellectually honest and arguable to hold that God does not exist. Often their personal biography or the excessive, even insane, behaviour of some religious believers makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to take seriously the claims of Christianity. Though I’m not an atheist I can understand and respect people who hold a non religious world view. What I cannot accept, and will oppose through this website, is the intolerance, prejuidice and hate speech of so called New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins and PZ Myers, and the bigots that they incite.

      • sam mace

        deacon to compare atheists to the orange lodge and the kkk frankly astounds me, hithcens and dawkins have never talked about harming any human being because of their faith. Even Hitchens uses the metaphor of toys to describe religion, he says as long as they keep these toys to themselves they can play with them all they want, but they want me to play with their toys when i don’t want too.

        We will always have a different viewpoint but i ask one thing, please advise karla to stop making ridiculous claims about contraception and rape, which is ironic since the catholic church have a serious problem with the latter

      • DET

        Deacon
        You have garnered respect from me with your tolerance and acceptance of those posting opposing viewpoint, but I take issue with your wording.I don’t know what the solution is, but using the term “new atheist”, lumps us all in with the nutjobs and extremist. Any negative comments concerning an institution we are part of, affects us personally, theist or atheist alike.
        I think what Dawkins, Hitchens and their ilk have a problem with is the wrong done by a few. As I said in a previous post, that doesn’t mean the church is bad. What happens after the act is the issue. I am not saying the claims are factual, but the church has been reluctant to assist in investigations. I do see a claim to a moral high ground, that the church is not be questioned or scrutinized, such as the church not wanted banking records investigated. I am not claiming any conspiracies, but I don’t see full disclosure either.
        Any discussion of morals needs to decide if they are arguing natural vs church laws and/or ethics vs morals. They can be the same and they can appear to be in opposition of one another. Natural and church laws are distinctly defined. How you apply those laws defines your morals. How society applies those same laws dictates cultural ethics.
        I see Someone asked earlier why atheist come into this forum. I did to show support for your rights and voice my disapproval of the actions “militant atheist”. I may not agree with your beliefs, but you have the right to them. We need more respect and tolerance in this world.

  • fd

    The Berlusconi-owned Il Giornale newspaper has just launched a dreary attack on the Archbishop of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi, who is an extraordinary person,a formal elector in the conclave, a personal friend of Pope Benedict, and is in charge of the largest archdiocese in the world.
    In the run-up to the Milan election Il Giornale has accused the Bishop (who had been unfairly called by this paper the Imam of Milan because he said he believe Muslims had a right to have a Mosque in Milan)of being in favour of gay marriage,drug and even of atheism because he “didn’t speak up clearly against the center-left candidate”.
    Then Il Giornale went on to even say that the Archbishop has destroyed the Diocese of Milan and that now he wants to destroy the city as well.
    When will these atheists understand that the Church doesn’t do and never will do political propaganda?
    The Milan-based leading Catholic daily Avvenire says that indeed there are some obscure dreary points in the center-left agenda but these attacks are foolish and just nonsense. The Church doesn’t take side politically
    Unfortunately more and more often Italian newspapers, whether they are on the left or on the right either attack the Church when she speaks on moral matters or attacks it because it doesn’t take sides, which is absurd!
    I think we are in a dire strait because on the one hand there is the left which comprehends anti-catholic groups and on the other hand there is the right which gives lip service to Catholic values but doesn’t embody them, moreover the behaviour of the PM is embarassing for Catholics and his MEDIASET channels feature programms which have nothing to do with Catholic values…
    The popular catholic weekly FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA,which is also based in Milan,says that Catholics should not be opposed to the Mosque because “WE MUST NEVER BE AFRAID OF PRAYER, IN FACT ALL FAITHFUL OF EVERY RELIGION HAVE THE RIGHT TO PRAY”,so that point of the agenda is welcomed. Famiglia Cristiana reminds the readers that just after 9/11 John Paul called all religious leaders to Assisi to commit to peace.
    And there is no evidence that, as the current mayor says, a mosque in Milan would increase the threat of terrorism.
    FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA has often said that one of the “achievements” of our PM is that of dividing Catholics in this country.

  • Anthony

    Atheism should be made available to all to know about and experience. There’s nothing like a blast of freezing cold to get everyone to rush back into the warmth, and stay there.

  • Robin Leslie

    Contemporary atheism is a very religious phenomenon, it is constituted by an ‘exclusive humanism’ that rejects the need for any transcendental reference in our lives. What exists for atheists is simply the physical which is there at our disposal to do with what we, as egos, will. Furthermore contemporary atheism
    arises in the circumstances and context of globalizing market capitalism on the back of the arrogant ideological assumption that
    ‘liberal democracy’ is the goal for all countries and cultures and
    that we are now, therefore, at the end of the period of ideological
    struggles (Fukuyama: The End of History)
    Another view of course is that of Vaclav Havel that the West is
    ‘living within the Lie’ in a post-totalitarian period that is as
    profoundly authoritarian and totalitarian as its Communist predecessor. We all know that atheism was the official dogma of
    Eastern European Communism just as it is becoming the official dogma of its Western successor market capitalism with the coming of the dictatorship of money and power. There is very little difference between the two forms of atheism, they are both from the same root viz, a belief in the human without the need for a
    faith in a reality greater than their forlorn egos.
    However there is one redeeming feature that mat arise from such a
    confrontation between atheism and Christianity in particular, and that is that they may become mutually corrective, that is to say that atheism may constantly remind the Church of its human contingency and of our mortality, something too often avoided among some Christians with an undue emphasis on Resurrection and
    Salvation. On the other hand Christians can remind atheists of the
    joyfulness and hope that lies beyond our mortality and that this joy is also a creative task waiting for our participation at every moment. It is a great sadness that people choose to reject a loving God and to despoil His creation, and Creation does not belong to us, it is not a possession nor a right, it is a gift and a trust, marvellous in its portents, exquisite in its vision.

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