Category Archives: atheist

Not religious now?

The Mark NO RELIGION on the 2011 Census, take religion OUT of politics web site is now live. Check it out for lots of FAQs and reasons why you should mark “No Religion” on the 2011 Census if you are no longer religious, and why you should mark “No Religion” for your children.

The census categorises people into age brackets, the following link accesses the .xls spreadsheet for religion by age for Australia for 1996, 2001, & 2006. As you’ll note the first age bracket is 0 -14 years old. From the Atheist Foundation of Australia’s (AFA) Census No Religion web site:

Generally an adult fills in the questionnaire and may mark young and adolescent children as having a religious belief without their input. The largest percentage of people who hold no religious view are in the adolescence to young adulthood range, which may be as high as 50%.

Many children have not decided which set of religious beliefs they will accept as true, or thought through the ramifications of those beliefs. We therefore believe it is unfair and inaccurate to label these children has belonging to a religion. However, if you are certain the child in question truly believes the tenets of a religion, please select the appropriate option.

Just because your child was born into your religion doesn’t automatically make them a follower or believer of that religion. I’m no expert, but I doubt any child under the age of 5 can seriously make a considered decision, after taking into account all the facts and being provided with all the options, about what religion they are. In fact I doubt most children under the age of 14 can. So please, unless your child seriously claims they are a follower of a particular religion, mark them as “No Religion” on the 2011 Census.

H/T to RealityRules on the AFA forum for the link to the spreadsheet.

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Books – August 2010

Just added a new page called Books (see header) which lists all the Atheism, Philosophy, Science, Theism, and related topics, books that I own (and have, mostly, read – see Legend), updated and current as of August 2010.

Most of these used to be listed in a text widget in the sidebar, which has now been deleted.

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Ethics and Religious Education

The St James Centre has been trialling, successfully from what little I’ve heard, ethics classes in schools as an alternative to religious education (RE) classes. Why RE is being taught in PUBLIC schools is beyond me, but that’s not the main point. The point is the religious don’t want these ethics classes. Why? Heaven forbid (TIC) that children will be taught ethics, but that doesn’t seem to be the main problem the religious have with the program, as pointed out in this article on smh.com.au

THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has privately lobbied the Premier, Kristina Keneally, against the permanent introduction of secular ethics classes in public schools, saying they would jeopardise the future of religious education. (emphasis mine)

Or should that last word be indoctrination? 🙂

Why is the Archbishop worried? Probably because he knows that old adage “give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man” and is worried he and his cronies won’t be able to continue to brainwash young children into specific religious dogmas.

I have no major problem with comparative religion being taught in schools in a social science type class. Where children are taught the histories and beliefs of all religions as concepts not as truths. Where they can be taught issues related to freedom of religion and freedom from religion, as well as the separation of church and state; among other religious issues that impact everyone on a secular nature.

from Jason via email:

The Christian rent-a-crowd have been busy inundating NSW MLC Penny Sharpe’s inbox, pleading with the government to kill the St James Centre NSW ethics classes so they won’t compete with scripture classes. (from Penny’s twitter timeline http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc/status/12190784832 )

We need to let Penny know that there is support in the community for the ethics classes in NSW. Please consider sending her a personalised message of support on why you think this is an important initiative.

You can contact her by email: http://pennysharpe.com/contact

Or you can tweet her @PennySharpemlc (please use twitter hashtag #nswethics )

Or send her a message on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pennysharpemlc

Government at all levels needs to know that many people approve of the ethics classes being taught as an alternative to the RE classes. Senior clergy should not be allowed to sway the decision making process as they have a very obvious bias toward being allowed to indoctrinate young children into their specific religion. Please contact Penny and other parliamentarians (particularly your local MP) and let them know that you want alternatives to RE classes and that the ethics classes should be taught in all schools. Don’t let the religious rent-a-crowd hijack another excellent program, a program which can only be a good thing for children to learn,

Media coverage of the issue and related issues (thanks again to Jason and others)

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/find-these-kids-an-alternative-for-gods-sake-20100411-s0c7.html

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/keneally-allows-anglican-church-to-vet-content-of-ethics-lessons-20100412-s43m.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/bishop-enters-battle-against-secular-ethics-classes-20100413-s7pp.html

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-cant-teach-ethics-without-referring-to-christianity-20100409-rxai.html

http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/media-releases/ethics-classes-not-attack-religion

http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/churches-have-nothing-to-fear-from-clear-thinking-20100413-s7dj.html

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2871823.htm

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/how-the-west-was-lost-a-lack-of-faith-in-civilisation-20100411-s0ow.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-diary/top-cop-leads-god-squad-20100411-s0wp.html

http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc (Penny’s twitter timeline)

There are some amazing, and a little scary, stories from parents particularly in the comments on the first link.

I don’t have, and never had, children in school but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to discuss this issue and help stop the religious having undue influence over young and impressionable minds.

update 26 July 2010

Here are a few more links for all things SRE, RI (RE), NSCP and Ethics Classes .

http://www.highcourtchallenge.com/index.html

http://www.stopthenscp.org/religioninpolitics.htm

http://www.backintheact.com/index.html

http://campaign.specialethicseducation.com.au/index.php

http://parents4ethics.org/

http://www.australiansecularlobby.com/

Note that Queensland has slightly different laws when it comes to Religious Instruction (RI) (sometime wrongly labelled as ‘Religious Education’ (RE)) compared to NSW and it’s Special Religious Education (SRE). From what I gather the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is above and beyond RI and SRE?

Religious Education – it should be taught by religious people in religious places (NOT public schools, or any other public or government institution) to people who want to learn it, not to people who have no choice (ie. children who are ‘forced’ to attend).

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Filed under Anglican Church, atheism, atheist, Catholic, ethics, religion, religious school, secular

I don’t reject your god.

I simply don’t think your god exists.

This is a subtle but very important difference, which a lot of theists either don’t understand or refuse to understand.

There is a third option why some theists insist that atheists are “rejecting god” it is that they can not comprehend that not everyone believes in their god. They think that everyone believes there is a god but are just lying to themselves when they say they don’t. The reason for this I surmise is that the theist is worried that the atheist might be right (which we are by the way 🙂 ) and therefore their whole belief system, and for some their whole way of life, is a fabrication and a lie (which it is by the way 🙂 ).

So why discuss this topic, again?

Well I came across this site yesterday and posted a reply to the post Is Atheism a Crutch? , in which I thought I had clearly spelt out the definition of an atheist and thus the reason why the whole concept of their post was wrong (my comment is near the end). The author of the post stated this:

Perhaps atheists are rejecting God because they’ve had a bad relationship with their father.

Which is a Straw Man of the highest order. Atheists don’t reject god they just don’t think god(s) exists (hard to reject something that doesn’t exist), secondly the author’s reason for the rejection is just wrong on so many levels.

Well it seemed that my simple explanation for disagreeing (my comment starts “What utter tosh…”) with the author’s post, and particularly with the authors definition of atheism, wasn’t simple or logical enough.

A person by the name of MrSprinkleFingers replied to my comment with, well this:

@OzAtheist

One red chip. One green chip. One blue chip. None of which have an inscribed value. The poker players in Game A decide to assign $1 to the red, $2 to the green, and $5 to the blue. The poker players in Game B decide to assign $10 to the red, $20 to the green, and $50 to the blue. Which group of poker players has assigned the correct value to the poker chips? The question is non-sensical because it assumes a “correct” value exists when none, in fact, does. What matters is that when the poker players of Game A and Game B decide play together that they come to a common agreement on what the value of each color chip will be. Likewise with the word “atheist.”

There exists no innate or “correct” meaning to the token “atheist.” There only exists the meanings which groups of people have assigned to the word. Hence, it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.

To go a step further, because Koukl’s definition of atheist as being one who rejects god(s) is indeed the common usage, it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm. Thus, for practical reasons, it makes more sense to employ the common definition rather than some convenient definition created and defended with a horrendous etymological argument to avoid the responsibility assigned to all participants of a conversation via the Cooperative Principle.

I tried posting the following reply but the site wouldn’t take my comment, I suspect it may be too long? So I decide to post my reply here.


Lot’s of nice big words there @MrSprinkleFingers but I will still have to disagree with you.

For a start Greg Koukl, who I’d never heard of until I read you comment, is a Christian apologist, therefore HIS definition of atheist does NOT constitute the common use of the term. As is often the case with religious apologetics they create there own definitions for words in order to either demonise others, or to try and rationalise their own beliefs. This does not make their definition correct or the one that is in common use, unless you are talking about in common use amongst religious apologetics who are attempting to win arguments by changing the definitions of words?

I would believe a dictionary or wikipedia before I would believe any religious apologetic when it comes to defining a word.

a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
-noun
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism

see, nothing about “rejecting” in those definitions. This is by far the more common usage for the term atheism, particularly amongst atheists.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia, of which not surprisingly I’m a member, uses this to define atheism:

“ATHEISM

is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.”

The problem with religious apologetics using the definition of the word atheism as meaning “one who rejects god(s)” is that it implies that atheists actually believe god(s) exist, which is not the case.

Oh, and your whole first paragraph is irrelevant nonsense. There is a vast difference between assigning values to something (poker chips) and defining a word. A poker chip is still a poker chip, no matter what dollar value you assign to it everyone will still know what a poker chip is. Equally with any other word, it has a standard definition which is commonly accepted. In the case of the term ‘atheism’ it is generally held to mean “the absence of belief that any deities exist” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism ), or similar as shown above, NOT “rejecting god(s)”.

It should be noted that the word “reject” is used on the wikipedia page, however unlike Koukl’s totally incorrect definition “one who rejects god(s)”, the term is used as follows: “the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.” Note the difference, which is subtle (perhaps too subtle for some) but important, Koukl’s definition is implying that god(s) exist (and that atheists know this), whereas wikipedia’s definition does not.

Like a lot of words, their meaning and definitions can change slightly over the years, dictionaries will regularly update accordingly, currently atheism is defined around the concept that atheists consider that there are no gods.

Oh, and don’t start on the term belief it doesn’t mean what you probably think it means when used in the contexts above.

MrSprinkleFingers your “logic” (using the term very loosely) is rather bad. You state that “it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.” but then state “Koukl’s definition … is indeed the common usage” on who’s authority is Koukl’s definition the correct one? Certainly not any atheist’s that I know of. Then you state the following “it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm.” erm how? If a popular definition of a word is being propagated by it’s adherents (and backed up by dictionary definitions!) wouldn’t that make it the norm rather than some obscure religious apologetic’s definition? Your logic MrSprinkleFingers fails again. Your last sentence is utter semantic nonsense, lots of big words but all you are trying to say is “use my definition not yours” – despite Koukl’s definition being wrong and not in common use like you (alone) assert.

If you want to cooperate try using the correct definition of the terms atheist and atheism (ie. acceptance that there are no gods) NOT your incorrect demonising definition that implies atheists know that god exists but are ‘rejecting’ him because of whatever reason (we hate him, or he did something bad to us, or whatever ridiculous argument you come up with to try and rationalise in your head that ‘atheists reject god’, because you can’t accept that, unlike yourself, not all of us are deluded into the belief that god exists).

All these words and I just realised that’s basically what I wrote in my first post! MrSprinkleFingers I think you will find that this comment only further backs up my original assertion: “If an atheist has confidence [and I do] that god(s) do not exists, or confidence that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote as to make them non-existent, then how is it possible for an atheist to be worried about “the frightening implications of God’s existence”?”

So, can you answer my original question?

One last thing, please stop propagating your incorrect definition of the term atheism.

I think you will find that the correct term for atheism is something along the lines of number 2 of the online dictionary “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings”, and yes it does make sense to use the term “correct” as that is the definition in various dictionaries and internet reference sites which adheres to what atheists actually think and which is most commonly used (except for some religious apologetics who are using an incorrect definition for their own nefarious reasons).


I attempted to post a link to this page on the ‘Stand to Reason‘ blog, but that wasn’t accepted either,  perhaps there is a fault on that blog at the moment. I got the following in an error dialogue box:

We’re sorry, we cannot accept this data

Please let me know if you think I have incorrectly defined the terms atheist and atheism, or if any of my logic is wrong. But be prepared to back up your claims with evidence.

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Jesus and David

One of the arguments I’ve seen for Jesus existing, or being real, is that people wouldn’t die for his cause if he wasn’t.

This is an extremely weak argument that has been proved wrong so many times that I’m surprised people still use it.

Just because people are willing to die for a belief does NOT make that belief, or the reason behind that belief, true!

For examples within my life time, look no further than David Koresh, who believed himself a final prophet and who with 75 other people died in a standoff with the BATF and FBI. Or Jim Jones, founder of the pseudo-religious organisation Peoples Temple who with 900 others committed suicide in 1978. Then there was the UFO religion headed by Marshall Applewhite who managed to convince 39 followers to commit suicide in 1997.

All of these people were real (there’s documented evidence for them) but there is absolutely no evidence that their beliefs were true, but despite that hundreds of people were willing to commit suicide for those beliefs!

People will believe all sorts of things, just because they are willing to do all sorts of things for those beliefs, including committing suicide (Islamic suicide bombers in America 2001, or Bali in 2002 & 2005) does not necessarily make the ideas behind those beliefs real.

Oh, and if anyone thinks that religious apologetics don’t say anything like what is in the first sentence, I came across similar twice today whilst researching if Jesus was real (thanks to Sam Hilton’s comment on my last post).

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Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Do fish ride bicycles?

Well I’ve never seen a fish on a bicycle so all the fish must have gone to heaven.

Or so the crazy logic of Jeremy Howard goes. An article in Transworld News cites Jeremy Howard as saying during a recent “Inside LifeWay” podcast:

“One thing everyone agrees on is that Jesus’ tomb was empty on the Sunday morning after His crucifixion,” said Howard, arguing that the best explanation is that Jesus in fact rose from the dead.

The best explanation? Really?

For a start the story of Jesus is still debatable. There is very little to no evidence for Jesus actually existing in the first place. Non-biblical mentions of Jesus amount to (as far as I’ve been able to determine in my limited research) two accounts, one of which, even by some biblical scholars, is considered a fake. The one possibly reliable non-biblical source does not indicate in any way that Jesus was anything more than just another one of the many “prophets” wandering around at the time. There is no non-biblical evidence for Jesus being crucified, being entombed, rising from the dead and ascending to heaven as some of the New Testament gospels would try and have us believe. Even the gospels can not agree on what actually occurred during these events.

So Howard’s first premise “One thing everyone agrees on is that Jesus’ tomb was empty on the Sunday morning after His crucifixion,” is incorrect. Not everyone agrees on this, in part because not everyone agrees that Jesus even existed.

But Howard’s conclusion is just mind bogglingly ridiculous and totally illogical. Let’s for one moment accept that Jesus did exist, that he was crucified and then entombed. There are several explanations as to why the tomb was empty.

  1. Jesus wasn’t actually dead when he was entombed. Supporters knowing this came and assisted Jesus from the tomb and then aided his departure to some other country.
  2. Jesus was dead but his followers wanted him buried elsewhere so removed his body from the tomb.
  3. Jesus was dead but, for whatever nefarious reasons, someone unrelated removed him from the tomb and hid/buried the body somewhere else. (perhaps the greatest practical joke of all time)

The above are just three ideas I came up with off the top of my head, all are pure conjecture, but all are far more likely than a person spontaneously rising from the dead, rather zombie like in my opinion, as Howard contends.

In the article it even mentions the possibility someone came and took the body, but Howard still says:

the evidence for Christ’s resurrection is solid.

I haven’t listened to the podcast and perhaps Howard comes up with some very good explanation for his logic, but I seriously doubt there is solid evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. There isn’t even any solid evidence for his existence.

The final paragraph sheds light on why Jeremy Howard has come to this illogical conclusion.

“The resurrection matters,” said Howard. “If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity is untrue, …”

Which is the crux of the matter, Howard is so frightened of the idea that his whole belief system may be built on a lie that he is prepared to come to any conclusion, despite it being wrong or illogical, as long as it supports his view of Christianity.

So Jeremy Howard perhaps, just perhaps, Christianity is untrue. What do you think readers?

Hat Tip to BibleAlsoSays for highlighting the article on twitter. Delusional was the word @BibleAlsoSays used about Jeremy Howard.

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Respect my Right to Believe

From twitter

though i do not an believe in atheism i will respect the rights of those who do. But in return i expect you to respect my right to believe

I respect all believers (religions of all varieties) rights to believe whatever they wish.

What I don’t respect is what those believers do in the name of their beliefs, especially if it impacts negatively on the rest of the population that doesn’t happen to believe in their particular brand of belief. What I don’t respect is believers trying to force their beliefs on others, particularly when those beliefs are not backed by any evidence whatsoever. I don’t respect believers who indoctrinate their children into their beliefs. I don’t respect believers who prevent condom use, prevent abortions or euthanasia purely on religious grounds not any logical or scientific grounds. I don’t respect beliefs that encourage people to harm others purely because they don’t have the same beliefs. I don’t respect beliefs that subjugate women or children and that discourage scientific investigation and research. I certainly don’t respect that governments hand out billions of tax dollars to religions purely because they promote religion. Just because it’s “religion” should not automatically mean it gets respect.

As Richard Dawkins said recently about Muslims [paraphrased] “… it’s because I fear you, don’t ever think it’s because I respect you”.

In other words, I respect your right to believe but don’t expect that I’ll respect you simply because you believe in some form of religion and/or god(s).

How can you not believe in atheism? It’s like saying you don’t believe in non-stamp collecting. You don’t have to like the idea that there are millions, if not billions, of people on this planet who are atheists, but you can’t not believe that such an idea exists. Whilst ever there is a principle called theism there will be a principle called atheism.

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