Australian Christian Lobby spokesman, Jim Wallace, shares his views (below) about the Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne in March 2010.
I claim a right of reply.
“2,500 for an international conference … is not incredible … the national conference for these atheists some two years ago only had about 19 people there.”
Hmmm – from 19 people to 2,500 in just two years. I’m not sure that a meeting of 19 people can be claimed as a ‘conference’ but still, if Jim’s right, a 13,000 percent increase in just two years seems a rather remarkable rate of growth to me. Consider, the first Hillsong Conference had only 150 people and took 20 years to build to 30,000. So, 2,500 as a starting point for future atheist conventions augurs well for the future.
“… what came out of this [the Global Atheist Convention] was a new militant atheism.”
Militant, eh? Militant as in lobbying the government to deny basic human rights to Australian citizens? Militant as in trenchantly opposing freedom of information? Militant as in trying to force your values on people who don’t share them through government legislation? Militant as in denying the rights of our elderly people to choose to die with dignity (meaning that many of them hang themselves instead)? Yep – that’s militant, Jim but – oops, sorry – that’s the Australian Christian Lobby isn’t it? Not the atheists.
“… this [the growth of atheism] is going to threaten our Christian heritage.”
Sorry to break this to you, Jim, but Australia doesn’t have a Christian heritage – it has a secular heritage (which, admittedly, you and your mate Mr Rudd are doing a fine job of destroying).
The convicts who came to Australia in 1788 despised the clergy for their corruption and their alignment with the status quo. (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, eh?) The early governors were so disinterested in religion that after waiting for years for the government to build him a church, the first chaplain finally paid for one out of his own pocket. When the prisoners were forced to attend, they burned it down.
The bushmen immortalised by Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson were practical atheists. History records that travelling outback preachers were the subject of disdain – there are even stories about them being paid to go away.
The Chartists, whose British movement inspired the Eureka Stockade, were largely atheists. The founding fathers of Australian Federation fought for a secular nation – not a Christian one. While people like Alfred Deakin, Sir Samuel Griffith and Andrew Inglis-Clarke toiled hard to draft a secular Constitution, church leaders busied themselves by bickering over who should have precedence at the Federation ceremonies.
Many of our finest Prime Ministers and political leaders have been atheists. For example, we owe our national health system and the beginning of a more respectful attitude towards Aborigines to atheist, Gough Whitlam, and his largely atheist cabinet. (You might recall, Jim, it was your Christian missionaries who stole children from Aboriginal parents causing untold misery for thousands.)
Today, Australia is one of the most secular nations in the world with less than 8% of its population regularly attending a place of worship.
“… Richard Dawkins was worried about the decline of the church and what might replace it.”
You’re clutching at straws, Jim. I don’t recall who mentioned this at the Convention – I doubt it was Dawkins. But, whoever said it, the context of the remark was simply that many of the people rejecting the church in their droves are turning to new age ‘woo’ which has no more evidence than religion – but is probably a damn site less harmful. Your implication that Dawkins was afraid that what might replace religion may be much worse is deliberately misleading. After all, I haven’t noticed too many psychics or astrologers blowing up abortion clinics, being involved in long-term institutional child-abuse, or starting bloody protracted holy wars.
“… the West’s wealth [in comparison to non-Christian countries] … we say, is the blessing of God, because it’s maintained its Christian heritage.”
Really, Jim? So it isn’t hundreds of years of Western imperialism, the bloody invasion of foreign countries, the exploitation of their resources and cheap labour, control of global markets and the bully-boy tactics of Western governments that has made the West wealthy, but God? Geez, you learn something every day. It must be nice, Jim, to feel so smugly deserving while your ‘loving God’ condemns children in third-world countries to starve to death because their countries aren’t Christian.
But there are more important things to worry about than starving children, aren’t there, Jim? Let’s worry, instead, about well-fed Western children glimpsing a bit of bum or boob in girlie magazines. Far more important!
“We’ve all gone into petrol stations and the like and we’ve seen these [pornographic] magazines which are there … at very low level … even a child’s level … they should be only sold in adult stores.”
Interesting point. You have to be 17 years old to drive a car, why would a small child be in a petrol station without a parent or adult present? If your point is that children should be better supervised, I’m right with you, Jim. But, tell me, just how many unattended 6-10 year olds have you noticed loitering around your local petrol station?
Actually, if you want to start protecting children from dangerous and unsuitable literature, may I suggest you start with your own holy book which contains some of the most ghastly, bloodthirsty, unjust violence ever described, reportedly perpetrated by, or at the instructions of, the God you want innocent children to worship.
This is the book which commands that children who curse their parents should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9), which describes (with no condemnation) how Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him (Genesis 19:30-38), which tells of how Elisha, beloved of God, cursed some children who were teasing him for being bald and how the Lord sent two bears from the woods to maul forty-two of the children (Kings 2:22-24). I could go on, but really, it’s not just unsuitable literature for children, it’s pretty sickening for adults too.
The truth is, Jim, I find the literature that you tout offensive and dangerous, violent, racist, homophobic and sexist. It’s certainly literature I wouldn’t want children exposed to – but you don’t see we ‘militant atheists’ campaigning to ban the Bible, do you?
“… the Australian Christian Lobby has been very much against the growing sexualisation of children in our society …”
Jim, perhaps you should take a closer look at some of those magazines. There are photos of naked, consenting adults in there, not naked children. It’s highly dishonest of you to conflate the availability of adult magazines to adults and the sexualisation of children. They are two, completely separate issues.
Or rather, why don’t you just give up this obsession you have with girlie magazines and take another look at your Bible – which actually has some diamonds among the dross. Here’s a useful passage for you:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
1. Learn more about the Australian Christian Lobby and let others know it is not a community lobby group.
The Australian Christian Lobby likes people to think that it is a community lobby group, but this is not the case. In fact, the ACL is is a privately owned, legally secretive, company, which has ‘supporters’, not ‘members’. It is the private board of the ACL which makes decisions about what issues they will lobby on – they do not have a democratic structure in which members can vote and directors are invited on to the board by the board itself – they are not elected by any membership. Read more here.
2. Write to the Prime Minister and tell him you object to the Australian Christian Lobby’s undue influence on the Labor Government and let him know it will effect your vote at the next election.
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
2. Join a group which opposes the ACL’s aims to de-secularise the Australian government and impose Christian values and prejudices on all Australians – regardless of their own beliefs. These may include an atheist, rationalist, freethought, humanist, secular or even a skeptics group.
3. When you see the ACL campaigning against the rights of Australians to freedom from religion, write a letter to the relevant politician and/or a letter to the editor of the newspaper you read the article in. Make your voice heard.
Gladly is a gentle, atheist bear who acts according to his own conscience, not the directions of a violent and capricious deity. Gladly would not even consider mauling a child because they called some old guy ‘baldie’.
If this post has given you ‘paws’ for thought, Gladly thinks you might enjoy the following further reading:
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges
Holy Hatreds: Religious Conflicts of the 90s by James A Haught
Beyond Belief: Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal, by Martin Bridgstock
Australian Legend by Russell Ward, Oxford University Press
Convicts, clergymen and churches : attitudes of convicts and ex-convicts towards the churches and clergy in New South Wales from 1788-1851, by Allan Grocott, Sydney University Press, Sydney, NSW.