QualiaSoup is one of my favourite youtubers. His videos are always highly polished, clear and concise, and very well presented. If you haven’t seen all of his videos you should probably go ahead and dedicate all your spare time to that right now. Anyway, here’s his latest video on secularism:
Ron Williams and his solicitor, Claude Bilinsky, announced today that Williams will challenge the legislation recently enacted to 'work around' the High Court's decision in Williams vs the Commonwealth and Others, otherwise known as the 'chaplaincy challenge'.
I don't think most people realise the seriousness of the action taken by our parliamentary representatives in their haste to throw yet more tax payers' money at the likes of Scripture Union and Access Ministries.
On Thursday night I attended a debate held at James Cook University between the Anglican bishop of North Queensland, Bill Ray, and fellow Townsville Humanists member and founder Jonathan Meddings. The motion was “Is religion a force for good in the world?”
My memory is not vivid enough to recall a lot of what the bishop said, but there was one thing that particularly annoyed me because he seemed to keep stressing it, as if he thought it was an airtight argument.
To paraphrase, it was something like this:
“An important thing I learned in philosophy is that where you end up depends on where you start from. We can both use logic to come to our conclusions, but as it happens we’re starting from different places. I choose to start out at <insert something about god, or the bible, or Jesus or some such>”
He said it as if to imply that both of our premises were equally valid, that where you start out from is just a matter of what you choose to believe, and we just happen to believe different things.
Well no, sorry, but that’s not how it works. Premises matter. Obviously you can’t just adopt any old premise, whack some logic after it and think you’ll end up with truth at the end.
So what we need is a method of sorting truths; of verifying premises. And I know just the thing, it’s called science. It works. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
And there is absolutely no science to support the premise that an invisible sky man invented dust, then invented a man from the dust, then invented a women from the rib of the man he made from dust, then invented a talking snake that he knew would trick the dust-rib-people into having knowledge (people are easy to trick before they have knowledge) which is for some reason bad, then condemning not only those people but all their children for the crime of their parents, but then to save them from the punishment that he himself would give them, sends down his son, which is actually himself, to be sacrificed, even though he resurrects him (himself) a few days later, and that this same invisible sky man is the author of morality.
Take Occam’s razor to the above belief and you’ll end up with nothing left. However, humanism, the belief that there is no supernatural author of morality and that we have to determine morals for ourselves using reason, is not even scratched by it.
Anyway, the debate went well and it was enjoyable to watch. I forget exactly what the percentages were of the audience opinion before and after, but it shifted in the direction of Jonathan by the end, so he did an excellent job. I loved the way he paid homage to Christopher Hitchens throughout the debate, beginning with “Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I hope I may say, comrades and friends ” and sipping a glass of Johnnie Walker, classic.
If anyone else who was at the debate would like to tell me how completely wrong I am about everything let me know in the comments.
We’ve had a win for the separation of church and state: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-20/high-court-upholds-chaplaincy-challenge/4081456
It makes no sense at all to have religious counselors in a public school. How can a chaplain of one religion effectively counsel children who may be of completely different faiths or beliefs? How is a chaplain of the homophobic brand of Christianity (or Islam for that matter) going to help out a teenager struggling with the troubles of homosexuality? How are they going to help a troubled atheist child without being tempted to tell them that they have to find god and pray and that’ll fix everything?
There should only be trained, professional, secular counselors in public schools.
It’s not a comprehensive victory though. As I understand it, the ruling was that the program could not be federally funded, not that the program couldn’t continue. So it might continue, if the individual states choose to fund it themselves, or if they find some other loophole for the funding.
Gathering atheists together, it has been said, is like trying to herd cats. We think for ourselves, and don’t need to go to the equivalent of church to be told what to think. Criticisms of the Global Atheist Convention from outsiders often went something like “What are you all going to do, get together and talk about how much you don’t believe in god?”.
But god wasn’t what we talked about. God may not exist, but religion does. To generalise, the speakers highlighted issues in our society where religion is having a negative influence, and what we can do to fight back against that. How do we get people to realise the harm being done? How do we get these people on our side? The fact is that being organised is an advantage, and religion is organised. And to fight it effectively, we’re going to have to be organised too. And I think as religion tries to encroach on politics more and more, atheists are starting to realise this, which explains why there were 4000 of us at the GAC.
And there’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath-water. I’ve never been religious, but I can see how it might benefit one to go to church. A sense of belonging to a community, a sense of comradery, and the social aspect of it, meeting people, doing activities together, doing charity work together and getting the self-satisfaction that comes with that. Except we don’t have to mistake that feel-good for being touched by Jesus or some such nonsense. There’s no reason a group completely separated from religion couldn’t have all of those benefits.
I’m quite sure there are many people who have grown up with religion, and have since become atheists, but dare not tell anyone and still regularly attend church because to stop would be to abandon, or even be ostracised from their entire community, and there is no other community for them. We should let those people know they are not alone, that there are others like them, and that we need their help to free more minds from the matrix and bring them into the real world.
So since the Global Atheist Convention, I’ve been riled up, and hungry for more of similar. I’m keen to get our coordinated hunting pack together, as my favourite blogger PZ Myers said in his speech. And I loved being embroiled in intelligent conversation with everyone I spoke to there, so the idea of micro-GAC’s that I don’t have to travel to Melbourne for are quite exciting to me.
So after a bit of internet trawling, I eventually found out about Townsville Humanists (and friends), and I went to a meeting tonight. And I’m glad I did. The meeting was largely about building up the group, presenting atheism in a positive light, being welcoming and not just religion bashing, getting registered as an official non profit group, getting organised, website, tshirts, etc. and how to win hearts and minds. Along with some not necessarily on-topic intelligent conversation. Exactly what I hoped.
The majority of atheists, I would say, are mostly apathetic toward religion, and I reckon it’s because they don’t realise just how poisonous it is to society. I forget where the quote is from, but “If you’re not outraged by religion, you’re not paying attention.” So that’s our challenge, we have get people to pay attention, and to show why religion is not a good thing, whilst at the same time giving people a much better option.
So if any atheists from Townsville happen to be reading this and it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend checking it out. A website for the group will be coming shortly, but if you’re on facebook there’s this page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Townsville-Humanists-and-Friends/205107346193064
Or you can reply to this post and I’ll be glad to get you the details of the next meeting as they emerge.
If you’re not from Townsville, then wherever you are, have a look around on google and see if there’s a similar group in your city, help make our voice louder.