Well, it’s 6.30am on a Sunday morning and under normal circumstances I’d still be buried deep beneath my doona. But, as the light crept through my window this morning I sensed something of a ‘divine’ calling. I rose from my bed, dressed and ventured out into the cold morning air on a mission. A short pilgrimage to the local garage and I’d found my ‘unholy grail’ – a copy of the Sunshine Coast Daily and, within it, not one, but two stories about local non-believers – former Noosa Shire Councillor, Peter Bycroft and … me. Many thanks to Peter for writing the media release which resulted in this most excellent publicity.
While I’m most grateful to journalist Owen Jacques and Sunshine Coast Sunday for publishing the articles, sadly they haven’t been made available online. Also – probably in retribution for my sins – my printer has been ‘smote’ (smitten?) and will not scan. So, hoping I’m not breaking any copyright laws here – or if I am, hoping the Sunshine Coast Daily will grant me an indulgence – I’m reproducing the text of the articles (and the photo which accompanied them).
Of course, if you’re a Sunshine Coast local, don’t be mean, do the right thing and pop out and buy a copy – and get yourself a cappuccino while you’re at it.
Philosophy | Atheist Convention
One unholy gathering
by Owen Jacques
Coast atheists set to hit the road for a convention of reason
SUNSHINE Coast’s non-believers are hitting the road.
Early next year, the 2012 Global Atheist Convention will again be held in Melbourne with some of the world’s best-know speakers on the list.
Referred to in jest as the “four horsemen of the anti-apocalypse”, God Delusion author Richard Dawkins, best-selling Sam Harris who wrote The End of Faith, Daniel Dennett and provocateur extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens will headline the event.
Atheists of various persuasions on the Coast are already preparing for their non-holy pilgrimage.
Peter Bycroft of Sunshine Beach refers to himself not as an atheist but a secular humanist.
That is, a non-religious person who has faith in human nature.
He will head south for what he believes is a chance to listen to some of the best speakers in the world.
“It’s an opportunity to hear leading experts talking about rationalism and atheism,” he said.
“There is quite a good mix of ages – you get a grip on the breadth of demography in this new enlightenment.”
“It’s usually well attended from the Sunshine Coast.
“Every postcode but one [on the Coast] is above the state average for non-believers.
“At the northern end [of the Coast] is the highest proportion.
“And non-believers often feel they are in the minority but they are growing into a majority.”
Mr Bycroft said with any large group, you will have the “drum bangers” – those pushing their views on to others, but it was not something he was interested in.
“The idea of these angry atheists, I’m not one of them,” he said.
More than 2000 attended the Rise of Atheism convention in 2010, the first of its kind in the country.
Atheism not about religion but politics
Mapleton woman Chrys Stevenson does not believe in God.
She is part of the Sunshine Coast Atheists group, vocal activist for non-religious rights and co-founder of the national atheist organisation, Reason Australia.
But why do non-believers need a group?
“An atheist is just someone who doesn’t believe in a supernatural deity.” Ms Stevenson said.
“There are many connotations to atheism but I like to embrace and reclaim it.
“We’re good, ethical, moral people.
“Atheism is a belief in human rights, [social] welfare and avoiding religious interference in these areas.”
She said the point of atheist organisations was not about religion, it was about politics.
“It’s not about going against those who believe in God,” she said.
“They take comfort in those beliefs and I would never want to take that away.
“But where it encroaches on the lives [of those] who don’t believe, that’s when I think it’s a problem.”
One of the reasons such a group is needed, she said, is thanks to conservative and powerful lobby groups like the Australian Christian Lobby.
“We are not a Christian nation, never have been,” she said.
“We have always been a multi-cultural, multi-faith nation and these people are trying to rewrite history.
“How they affect policy is beyond me but the only way to fight back is to organise.”
As a group, Ms Stevenson said atheists stood for marriage equality, “Allowing homosexuals to marry affects the sanctity of no-one else’s marriage” and reconsidering tax exemptions against religious organisations.
In the Sunshine Coast Atheists she said it was not simply a meeting of people sitting around chatting about what they do not believe in.
“You find that people who are atheists often have interests in education, science, reading, scepticism and politics,” she said.
“It’s a social group of like-minded people.”
Reproduced from: Sunshine Coast Sunday – Sunday, August 21, 2011, Page 11
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