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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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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 πŸ™‚ ) 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 πŸ™‚ ).

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:


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.

aΒ·theΒ·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
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:


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,Β  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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Atheist Convention – wrap up

Some general thoughts on the Rise of Atheism Convention.

Firstly, you may have noticed there were no links in the previous four posts I trust you are all smart enough to find anyone or further information yourselves. Additionally I’m hoping this will prompt you to join the Atheist Foundation of Australia forum and Twitter and get involved in the many discussions there and to find out what others thought of the event. If you are already on twitter, or sign up, check the hash tag #atheistcon for all the conversations, links, pictures and discussion concerning the convention. If you really don’t want to join twitter you can always go to the search.twitter.com site and view the atheistcon hash tag there.

The panel with the five women needed to go much longer, the convention was somewhat male dominated, and I think the women chosen for the panel could have answered many questions centred around their chosen topic of feminism and religion. I liked the idea of a panel, it’s a good way to get several viewpoints on the one topic, but it needed the full two hours for a good Q and A session. As it was they didn’t get to answer any questions as the section ran over time. Hopefully next time they will have a similar panel session but with a full two hour slot.

Which brings me to another point, the questions from the audience! This needs to be handled much better next time. No matter what your persuasion you need to be short and concise with your introduction and question, whilst you may think you are clever and important, not every one else may think the same. Also, you probably don’t have experience using a microphone, so don’t shout into it, but don’t be afraid of it.

I was happy to have a question from a theist and thought the reaction to her was a little unruly, even if she asked a very open question that could not possibly be answered in the few minutes alloted. Take note people, ask only one question and ensure it’s one that can be answered in the brief time alloted.

I’m not entirely sure how this could be handled better next time, or even if it can be. No matter what the topic you’ll always get some loon that wants to spout their own agenda, and you can’t know until they’ve started talking. I don’t want to censor anyone, but they do need to stay on topic. At the least the MC should reiterate the need to stay on topic and that you are allowed only one question.

Meeting up with people. I’ve never met so many new people in such a short time before. Met people I’ve known on-line for over three years, quite a buzz to finally meet them in real life. However, despite meeting so many people, I was a little disappointed that I missed so many people. Following the convention I have seen many people from twitter and the AFA forum discussing about being there, but I never saw them. Of course the big problem is that on-line many of us use a nickname and don’t have a photo of ourselves as our avatar, so it’s impossible to spot someone if you don’t know what they look like. A few of us had name tags made up by Praxis from the AFA forum and that helped a little, I’d love to see more of this next time. Twitter also came in handy by sending messages telling someone where you were so they could find you.

So for the next one, and I’ve been reliably informed there will be another one in two years time, make sure you are signed up on the AFA forum and twitter beforehand, get a badge made up with your real name and forum, facebook and twitter names and your avatar picture.Then get involved on-line with the extracurricular meetups and say hello.

The near fanaticism of Richard Dawkins and to a slightly lesser extent P Z Myers. Whilst Dawkins is a very intelligent man and outspoken atheist (it was his movie “Religion is the Root of all Evil?” that made me become an outspoken atheist) I’m not sure he warranted a standing ovation at the start and end of his speech at the convention. The last thing atheists need is to start looking like theists who idolise their gods or earthly representatives – eg. the Pope. We must still remain sceptical of everything he, or anyone else, says; just because he is at the top of his field doesn’t mean everything he says is right.

Friendliness. Most or the presenters hung around at breaks and seemed quite happy to have a brief chat with anyone and everyone. There were even a few other celebrities there namely Julian Morrow from the Chaser and Lawrence Leung to name a couple and they also seemed happy to have a chat or have a photo taken with them. People in general were friendly and happy to talk about all sorts of things, briefly got involved in a discussion on the ethics of the treatment of animals at the pub on Sunday night. We were all there to discuss one thing – atheism – but we are all human and have varied opinions about many other topics, whilst we didn’t always agree with each other, the conversations were lively, friendly and people were willing to listen to both sides of an argument. When presented with new facts people were willing to consider them, something you’ll rarely get from a theist. As mentioned before, my only disappointment was not meeting more people, especially ones I knew from twitter or the AFA forum; maybe next time.

Media coverage. There was quite a lot of it especially in the Melbourne papers, and the conversation is still going on on-line. Rather then list them all I suggest you go the to atheist convention website and check out their Media Coverage page. The coverage was both positive and negative, but even some of the negative coverage conceded that something must be going on for 2,500 atheists to gather in one place.

I had a few questions before I went to the convention and it seems like I wasn’t the only one, mainly; what will the convention achieve?

  • Was the convention just a fun way to meet like minded people?
  • Was it just a chance to see and hear some interesting and famous people?
  • Will the convention advance the cause of atheism?
  • What, if anything will the convention achieve? Or, as I was asked on twitter, “Achieve? What’s to achieve about a person’s belief philosophy?”

I think I’ll leave the answers to these questions for another post. Please leave other questions about the atheist convention, or your ideas on the above questions, in the comments.

One of my concerns during the convention was the amount of information my poor little brain was consuming. πŸ™‚ With so many speakers each talking for about 45 minutes it was difficult to digest everything they were saying. I have been reliably informed that a DVD of the event will be released which will be great to re-listen to some of the speakers. I’ve also been hoping that the speakers will post their speeches on-line. At least one has so far – Philip Adams at ABC The Drum, also Kylie Sturgess has a whole page on her PodBlack blog dedicated to her Sex and Superstitions speech. I have been reliably informed that transcripts of most of the speeches will be made available, I’m suspecting about the same time as the DVD is released, perhaps on a CD with the DVD, now that would be a great package to buy! If any one does see any of the other speeches, or transcripts thereof, on-line let me know in the comments or via twitter.

Last but not least a great big shout-out to all the volunteers and organisers, a job well done. It was a very big event and it ran very smoothly, kudos to all involved. A thank you should also go to the Convention centre staff, I know they were being paid to do their job, but I think they did it exceptionally well. The food was excellent and plentiful and the staff all seemed quite cheery and helpful. I had wondered how many of them might have been staunch religious people and if it would have impacted their work having to deal with 2,500 atheists. But if any of them were they kept it to themselves and performed admirably.

It was fantastic to finally meet all the great people in real life who I’ve only known on-line, some for a few years. It was a pity I didn’t get to meet more people who I only know via their twitter account, maybe next time we should organise a giant twitter party? Speaking of which, there were parties everywhere, from small groups to bars full of atheists, it was as much luck as design which one(s) you ended up at. All the feedback I’ve received from the various after event gatherings has been very positive, pity I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time. πŸ™‚

Hat Tip to the many people who provided input to this and the previous four posts.


Link to John Perkins talk “The Cost of Religious Delusion: Islam and Terrorism” (pdf file)

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Atheist Convention Day 3

Sunday, and fortunately not quite so early a start as Saturday. πŸ™‚

The convention centre is really packed out this time as quite a few people bought Sunday only tickets, supposedly there was about 2,500 people, the vast majority of whom were atheists. There were a few theists, some agnostics and even a Scientologist (we think) more on this later.

First up MC Stuart Bechman, an American and president of the Atheist Alliance International, informed us what AAI was and what they can do for the atheist community and atheist groups. If you are in an atheist group, or are thinking of starting one then you should be in contact with AAI, as well as the AFA.

Following the opening speech Peter Singer discussed morality and ethics. He had a good point about reciprocity or tit-for-tat, he decried the teachings of Jesus that said “turn the other cheek” as he said this leads to a society in which selfish bad people always get their own way. Society sometimes need to ‘hit back’ either directly or through laws. Had a good point about absolute majority. Singer also discussed charity works and pointed out that 3 out of 4 of the worlds wealthiest donators are atheists. Discussed how throughout the world there are the same moral teachings despite the many different religious teachings which would lead you to think that it’s humans that came up with morals not any gods.

Ian Robinson stepped on to the stage to the music from 2001 A Space Odyssey (each speaker came on stage to a different tune, a bit like the Twenty20 cricketers), he discussed “atheism as the logical conclusion to a spiritual journey.” Very good talk, quite cutting at times, which got a few laughs. Made some good points , about “spirituality” and the materialistic outlook on life, as a different way of looking at life. He did have a Powerpoint presentation, however it was quite a good one without too many slides. Some good questions at the end about education.

morning tea.

Kylie Sturgess – the famous Podblack – discussed her thesis study on sex and superstition. Her thesis originated from the, perhaps mistaken, idea that women were more likely to believe in weird things than men The results from her survey showed that it was about equal. However there was a marked difference between the types of things women believed in compared to men.

The question I would have liked to ask, but was too slow to get to the mic, is: Why do men tend to believe in things like UFOs and Loch Ness monsters more than women, whereas women believe more in psychic and astrology type false beliefs? Perhaps I’ll need to find time to read podblack’s blog where she has her “Sex and Superstitions” essays and research.

Robyn Williams then discussed science and religion, and also talked about his life discussing science on radio. He had some interesting stories from his long career.


Comedian Jamie Kilstein gave us his hilarious rapid fire monologue rant against religion, including his version of the ten commandments. I’m hoping the whole of this is on the DVD as I missed part of it due to laughing hysterically and part because he talked so fast!

After the convention closed and people were saying their goodbyes, and/or waiting in the very long line to get an autograph from Richard Dawkins, I found Jamie selling his CD “Zombie Jesus” from a corner of the Readings book shop stand. I spoke to him about the speed of his delivery, and joked I’d have to slow the CD down to understand it, and he said he doesn’t normally talk that fast but had a limited amount of time and wanted to do the whole monologue. He also said he was a bit nervous playing to such a huge crowd. I’ve since listened to his CD, which is quite funny.

Dan Barker followed Jamie and discussed his transition from fundamentalist preacher to atheist. A very compelling story with a lot of insight into the mind of a fundamentalist. I am very keen on getting his book and reading the story. As he pointed out a lot of religious people use the argument “you’re not a true believer” when trying to counter atheists who used to be religious. He had this to say about that: “if I was not a true believer then nobody is”.He also provided a few good tips on conversing with religious people and trying to convince them that their religion is wrong. I got as far as typing this “I respect your opinion but disagree with you and do not…” when Richard Dawkins came on stage, unfortunately I now can’t remember the rest of his excellent line to theists.

So the moment many (most) people had been waiting for – Richard Dawkins. He walked on stage to a standing ovation (which I thought was a little over the top) and then proceeded to give a measured talk about evolution and gratitude. I actually thought his speech was not a highlight of the event, unlike some of his fanboys, he seemed a little hesitant and occasionally appeared to lose his place in his lecture. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting him to provide a 45 minute lecture ‘off the top of his head’ which he didn’t seem to be doing. Then came question time, which was much better as he appeared much more relaxed and able to rattle off intelligent answers without much problem. Though there was two stumbling blocks.

These have been covered incessantly online and in the media, so I’ll just mention them briefly. The first one was when the Christian woman got up and following her “I’m a Christian blah blah…” she asked Dawkins “Can you explain DNA…”. The crowd had already started to get restless and a little jeering was heard when she announced she was a very religious person, but the place erupted when she asked the question. I’m sure there was more to the question but I was unable to catch it in the uproar. I thought the uproar was a bit uncalled for, and probably made us atheists look closed minded, but a 15 minute Q&A session is hardly the time to ask a biologist what DNA is. The answer is so complicated it can’t possibly be covered in that short a time period. Dawkins very graciously told the audience to quiet down and give the women and opportunity to ask her question, then explained about RNA and DNA albeit briefly given time constraints. I have since found out that after he finished speaking she turned to her friend and said (paraphrasing) “see Dawkins doesn’t know about DNA.”

The other controversy was when Dawkins said “… Pope [pause] Nazi …” which was seized upon and taken out of context in several news media reports. The YAS wrote a good report on the whole affair and have video footage of the section of Dawkins speech.

As for the Scientologist, he asked a question earlier in the day and opened with “I’m a secular humanist. I don’t believe in psychiatry” then asked a question that was more of a statement. I’m disappointed I don’t remember this better, but many people suspected he was a Scientologist and was trying to trick the speaker into saying something. But we’ll never know, perhaps if this is on the DVD that is to be released of the event (they recorded the whole 3 days) I’ll review it again then.

The end of the convention, but not the end of thousands of atheists wanting to hang around together. There were several semi-organised after-party events (and I’m sure a major organised event for all the organisers and speakers) I ended up at the Waterside bar on Flinders Street with a few hundred other atheists. As far as I could tell the place was packed out and everyone was from the convention, had a few drinks and a chat, then said my farewells and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before the dawn flight home.

So that’s my brief recollections of the 2010 Global Atheist Convention, I’ll write one more blog outlining my thoughts on the event and it’s aftermath.

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Atheist Convention – Dinner

The Rise of Atheism Convention dinner – it was worth the money!

Quite a few people had made the time to freshen up and get dressed up for the occasion which was good to see, podblack looked very nice in the dress she’d posted a picture of on the forum a while back. I recall getting in a picture with a bunch of other AFA forum members, thanks to Praxis (who got us a quite a good table) I think that was the only photo taken of me the whole weekend, luckily. πŸ™‚ Met a few more AFA forum members that night as well as a few twitter followers.

Dan Barker was the MC for the evening and also provided us with a brief talk about his conversion from evangelical priest to atheist.

The food was excellent and there was plenty of wine to drink, again the convention staff were very good.

Simon Taylor an illusionist showed us how easy (if you are highly talented like him) it can be to appear to be psychic. He got five volunteers on stage to write the initials of the person they had their first kiss from on a card. He then guessed correctly who had written which initials. He did this by getting the volunteers to lie when asked if the card was theirs and he was able to tell who was lying, very clever. His next trick was to get people to call out numbers, from this he selected the corresponding page and column in a white pages phone book. He then ran his finger down the column until someone shouted ‘stop’, he then got a volunteer to write the number down and show it to the audience. Then he unravelled a scroll of paper that had been wrapped around a stand the whole time, it was the same number!

Non Stamp Collector was the next entertainer and he discussed how he came to produce the Non Stamp Collector cartoons on facebook, he also showed a few of them on the big screen which had us all laughing, even though many of us had seen some of them before.

Last on the entertainment bill were Craig Ruecassel and Julian Morrow from The Chaser who were fucking awesome, worth the price of the ticket alone. I can’t describe their act, suffice to say it was hilarious and thought provoking and included a few clips from Chaser and CNNNN. They managed to poke fun at just about every religious convention and said “too much?” twice, what else need be said?

Staggered back to the hotel for some sleep before the next big day.

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Atheist Convention Day 2

Saturday, early start, glad I’d had a fairly early night.

Opening by Kylie (podblack) Sturgess, who by the way did an excellent job of MCing all weekend, and also presented an interesting lecture herself.

First speaker Philip Adams “Atheists as Honest Brokers” Adams theorised that religion is self imploding and dying not because of our (atheists) efforts but because of their own internal disintegration due to the majority of believers disagreeing with their hierarchies edicts. He has confidence that atheists should assist the demise by befriending the religious and that many religious people are just as nice as some atheists. Adams surmises that we should not be so strident to-wards the religious all the time,

Second speaker Russel Blackford discussed the need for atheists to support liberty, particularly freedom of speech and separation of church and state. He discussed the need to ensure that the religious fully understand what separation of church and sate really means. Blackford encouraged atheists to be “Defenders of liberal principles”. A good speech ruined a bit by problems with his powerpoint slides which detracted from his message. Though as someone said “who wants death from powerpoint anyway”.

Getting religious people to understand and concur with the policy of the separation of church and state is a very valid and worthwhile venture and something we atheists should be doing more about. It’s all well and good to rant and rave about the lack of separation of church and state in Australia and to try and remedy the situation, but without the majority of the populace in agreement this may never happen. Atheists need to find a good way, backed by valid, mutually agreeable arguments, to encourage the religious to assist us in making Australia have proper separation of church and state policies and laws.

Third Speaker Max Wallace, discussed his idea that a film needs to be made to show how much money, via taxes, the church makes. I agree and have said so before, as Wallace pointed out the majority of the populace doesn’t really know, understand or care; mainly due to lack of information. A film may be the best way to get the message out. A good question came from the floor, regarding the current problem with the church of Scientology and that the government is reluctant to pursue because it may mean they will have to investigate all religions, eg. the ‘can of worms’ problem, Wallace agrees as do I.

I’ve argued this before, and did again with a few people over the weekend, Scientology is the easiest target because it is so outlandish even to Christians. When differing religious groups get together Scientologists are often left out because they are not seen as a deity worshipping “religion”. So if religion’s influence is to be countered, going after Scientology is perhaps the best ‘foot in the door’ we may have. However, despite some politicians around the world wanting to stop calling Scientology a religion, thereby taking away all the benefits of it being a ‘religion’ (eg tax breaks) they are somewhat afraid to because they realise that then all religions, quite rightly, should come under the same scrutinising and possible loss of government and tax support.

Morning tea, mingle, coffee and biscuits. As an aside, the catering at the convention was very good. They had book signings at each of the breaks with different authors (seemed like every speaker had a new book out, but then again they were all doing this for free, so I understand) as well as many other books for sale thanks to Readings book shop. Additionally some of the speakers and a few media personalities were wandering around during the breaks, all of whom seemed quite happy to have a quick chat. PZ Myers said he seemed to have a camera in his face just about all weekend, but he didn’t appear to have been bothered by that.

John Perkins from the Secular Party discussed the need to concentrate on the Muslim faith, ensuring reason and education are used to combat Islamic fundamentalism, not just military strategies and forcing democracy on them.

Following Perkins was Taslima Nasrin who presented a very good speech. It was a heartfelt personal account of becoming an atheist after growing up Muslim, about being run out of her own country and then India because of her non-belief and her outspokenness against religion. She received a standing ovation at the end following her last comment “I have no home but the home of the people who love me”. Very out spoken about Islam, and rightly so, and she does have first hand knowledge of it. How anyone could still be Muslim, especially females, after hearing her speak is amazing; but we know it happens all the time!

Both speakers discussed the necessity to be allowed to criticise the Islamic faith, and all faiths, and to make sure that no faith, particularly Islam which is the biggest culprit, is allowed to introduce their own laws separate from the countries laws in which hey have moved in to.

Both speakers stated unequivocally that Islam is NOT a peaceful religion and it’s stated aims is to basically Islamise the world and the rest of the world should be aware of this.

Lunch, more food, more mingling.

Following lunch a panel of four women chaired by another, who’s name I didn’t get (original panel chair got sick at the last minute), each speaker only had about 10 minutes which for at least two of them wasn’t enough. As the panel chair said at the end, they should each have had an hour like everyone else. They each discussed a feminist point of view of religion, and (if I remember rightly) Leslie Cannold made a good plea for this convention to achieve soemthing constructive from the event. Something I would have liked to have seen followed up by the organisers of the event. I also enjoyed Lyn Allison’s speech, pity there aren’t more people like her in parliament.

Whilst I’m not sure if all of them could have spoken for an hour they definitely needed more time. As it was they went overtime and couldn’t take any questions, which was very disappointing. I would like to see a similar panel next time but given two hours, with each panelist having 15 minutes to speak leaving about 45 minutes for questions. I think we could have got some very interesting responses from the panelists especially from the feminist point of view that the panel was discussing.

The next speaker Tamas Pataki whilst he had a few good points was rather boring and way too academic, his main point that religion can have some benefits for society and that it seems that there is some innate desire to be religious has some validity (to be debated another time). I’m hoping a transcript of his speech is made available.

afternoon tea

AC Grayling talked about the difference between science and religion and that they are incompatible, discussed how religion despite squashing science for many years now tries to use it, and twist it to their own needs and then attempt to use it to make religion look legitimate. Also talked about humanism and spirituality. A good speech and another one I’d like the transcript of. As yet I don’t have any of his many books but I intend to get some, he sounded like a very clever, articulate person. Oh and everyone loves his hair, there’s now even a facebook fan page for it!

Finished with P Z Myers, who started off with with a short video of him talking to god, very funny. An excellent talk about how science and religion are incompatible, with some good references to Carl Sagan, Douglas Adams, and Terry Pratchett. He gave a big serve to Ken Miller a noted scientist who is also a devout Catholic but has some very crazy theories. He also presented a good argument that just because you are one thing and a member of a particular group doesn’t mean everyone in that group is the same. eg a serial killer who is a christian doesn’t make christianity breed serial killers. Something that both sides of the argument (atheists and theists) should remember. Oh, and everyone liked his crocoduck tie.

The end of another day. Sort of.

Race back to the hotel, frock up then back to the convention centre for the formal dinner. See the next post for details.

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Atheist Convention Day 1

Atheist Convention Day 1, plus pre day.

Well it’s been a busy time so far, arrived Thursday afternoon wandered aimlessly around town before heading to the Russell Blackford & A C Grayling book launch and talk at Cinema Nova. Met up with a few AFA forum members, the great Podblack and SeandBlogonaut bloggers and many others including a couple from America here for the Rise of Atheism Convention and their Honeymoon! (How romantic)

A bunch of us headed back into town to Beer Deluxe for drinks and some food. Met heaps more people who’s names now mostly elude me. Drank way too much and stayed up way too late. Missed the bloggers breakfast the next morning at which P Z myers ate a ‘cracker’ covered in Vegemite (poor bastard).

Friday afternoon, prior to the convention starting, a large group of atheists met up at Young and Jacksons pub in Chloe’s Bar for a few drinks and a chat, II was one of the many who said a quick hello to P Z Myers. Unlike some others I didn’t bother buying PZ a drink as he already had a stubby (300ml to 375ml beer bottle for my non-Australian slang readers) in each coat pocket and someone handed him a glass of beer whilst I was standing there. Then we all wandered down to the convention center to sign in and have a bite to eat and another drink,or two.

The convention was officially opened at 7:30pm with the opening speech from David Nicholls President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the introduction of the convention MCs Stuart Bechman and Kylie Sturgess (podblack).

The first speaker was Sue-Ann Post who was hilarious. A self described lesbian ex-Mormon comedian you can imagine what her talk / stand-up comedy sketch was about. Despite the humorous nature of her talk she did make some very good points against god and religion.

Then next speaker Mark Tier was a bit dry, but following Sue-Ann Post was a big ask, but it was interesting hearing first hand about religious attitudes in the Philippines. The Catholics over there, and there are lots of them, are very religious, they all have shrines in their front yards and that’s just the start of it.

Next was Catherine Deveny, who was also very funny and incisive, among other things she discussed her Catholic upbringing and beliefs and her conversion to atheism. She did a piece where she recollected a discussion between a friend and her where she tried, vainly, to defend her beliefs. She finished by reading an article she wrote about being banned from Mildura that was never published by the paper.

The show finished about 10pm and after a brief chat with a few people I decided to give my liver a rest and go back to my hotel.

So ended the first day.

Just a note, these recollections of the Rise of Atheism Convention are my best recollections, I did type a few notes in-between each speaker as memory joggers. So some minor inaccuracies may occur. Everything in these four posts is my opinion only and just my brief overview of the event.

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