|The Rise of Atheism convention OR Barney Zwartz Barney part the 4th.
||[Mar. 17th, 2010|11:37 pm]
Reason as a candle in the dark
|||||OSI - Blood||]|
I was going to write in detail about The Rise of Atheism convention that Joanne and I attended last weekend, but something more important got in the way. Yes, in something that will come as no surprise to most of you, The Age's resident faith head Barney Zwartz was dispatched to give his opinion of events with not the hint of journalism in evidence. Haha evidence, who needs that when you already know your opinion is right before you step out the front door? For those with a bucket handy, his pathetic shots at the highly successful and sold out event can be read here. This could not stand so I have just emailed him the below response:
It’s been a while since I wrote to as I recognise you are a busy person, and I have instead restricted my comments about religion, politics and national other affairs to the letters page of The Age. You may be interested to know my published views on religion have resulted in an angry Christian posting me some threatening hate mail. I can say that neither I, nor any of my many atheist friends have ever posted hate mail to any believer, what happened to turning the other cheek and loving thy neighbour? I’ll leave that up to other Christians to decide.
As you can probably guess, my reason for emailing was that travesty of a write-up you penned about the Rise of Atheism convention in Melbourne. It is no exaggeration to say your piece was both biased and disingenuous, and some corrections are in order. I can imagine one reason for your case of sour grapes came via the huge laugh Rationalist Society of Australia President Ian Robinson received for observing that while we are lucky in this country not to be put to death for our lack of religious belief, we do have to endure ignorant libel from Barney Zwartz. That was cheap shot I admit, but not without truth. However rather than turning the other cheek as Jesus himself advised, you instead to decided to lash out vindictively rather than by using reason, thus proving Mr Robinson’s point perfectly. I also object to your assertion that any joyful gathering of like-minded people is in some way analogous to a church service, as if the religious have a monopoly on such things.
Yes, comedian Jamie Kilstein’s material was a bit blue, but what you deliberately neglected to mention is that he bought the house down. Also, there were no children there. Many of us found this materiel especially refreshing in John Howard and Kevin Rudd’s Australia where we have our political leaders trying to force their own form of Christian morality down the throats of the nation and censor everything they personally find objectionable. Most humour comes from mocking the establishment and those in power; comedy by its nature is ant-establishment. There is far more humour in the silly costumes and beliefs of say, the Catholic Church, than there is in the behaviour of freethinkers and scientists; sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Find me a polite and conservative Christian comedian who could get as many laughs in such a short space of time and I’ll eat my pointy hat.
Your Uriah Heep-esq exertions about how so very humble you and other believers are compared with atheists sits somewhat awkwardly next to your overall tone of sneering condescension. And as Sam Harris observed, by believing the universe was designed with them in mind and that God has a special plan for them, your average Christian sitting in a church on a Sunday is committing a feat of arrogance unmatched by any scientist, and there have been a lot of arrogant scientists. I personally found there to a positive and cheerful atmosphere at the convention, and enjoyed talking to visitors from both near and afar. I don’t know if you talked with any of the attendees, but I suspect not as then you wouldn’t then have been able to deploy your favourite adjective, “militant” (just to use a few of your favourites, “strident” would be another) to describe atheists. I did look out for you and was prepared to offer to have a look over your notes to make sure you were giving a fair representation of what occurred. Regrettably my partner and I could not locate you.
I would imagine you likewise find it instructive that the federal government gave $20 million towards the Catholic World Youth Day in 2008, and the Victorian government gave $4.5m towards the Parliament of World Religions last year - but in our supposedly secular society, requests for funding an atheist conference were rejected. How sad it is to be despised for merely speaking to truth and advocating reason over blind adherence to Bronze Age myths. If only we’d run around babbling in tongues and agreeing that women were second-class citizens, then we would have been rolling in cash Scrooge McDuck-style. If there was even a grain of truth in the claims the world’s religions make then they would welcome more events like The Rise of Atheism convention. They would encourage criticism of their belief systems and then confidently shoot down all arguments against their faith one by one so at the end even the most impartial observer could see the unquestionable truth shining through all the smears. But this is not the case. The religious know that their houses are built upon sand and that even the most cursory examination of what they are espousing will cause the whole edifice of dubious morals, outdated dogmas and scientific impossibilities to collapse. So they attack the medium rather than to answer tricky questions, far better to demonise Richard Dawkins and other atheists than address the substance of their arguments.
If I could ask a personal question, I would wonder if any of what the speakers said get through to you, or since you already know that Christianity is true, such notions as evidence and logic can be easily waved aside as they are nothing compared to the awesome ignorance of faith? Did you watch all the speakers for the weekend, or at least all of the Sunday speakers? I’d be interested to know if you found Dan Barker’s amazing transition from evangelical preacher to atheist as compelling and fascinating as I did. And Robyn Williams spoke very well and surely you don’t consider creationism-believing Senator Steve Fielding as anything other than a bad joke, worthy of being mocked? I watched Q&A on the ABC last week and even the other Christians on the panel seemed embarrassed to share a faith with him.
The conference was not just attended by hardcore atheists - there were rational people of all description in attendance (and even one party-pooping Christian who proceeded to waste Professor Dawkins’ time with an inane question). It was not dedicated to one purpose. Rather, it was a statement of intent, to show that there are large numbers of atheist, agnostic and above all secular Australians who do not approve a Christian minority’s attempt to overtake this country. We do not want chaplains and religious instruction in schools, prayer in parliament and censorship of free speech and the internet. Australia should continue evolving into the very model of a secular 21st century democracy, with freedom of religion and freedom from religion for all. That is an Australia we can all be proud of, believer and non-believer alike. And one more favour, please point out those self-deprecating religious folk for me, will you? I didn’t know they loved a laugh at their god and their beliefs, I must remember to join you and them for a chuckle about your religion and then we can call back Jamie Kilstein and get cracking on those atheist jokes you’ve been hanging out for.
Two much better wraps of the convention can be found by following the below links: