Monthly Archives: April 2013

ANZAC Day – usurped again

Henry Norman Stevenson 2My readers will remember ANZAC Day 2011 on which the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace tweeted that our ANZACS didn’t fight for gay marriage and Islam. You would have thought the brouhaha that followed that event would have warned everyone against using the day to push their own ideological agenda.

But independent South Australian MLC, Ann Bressington – a well-known anti-vax, anti-abortion, anti-fluoride, anti-anything-else-that’s-even-mildly-sensible conspiracy theorist – is immune to salutory lessons, it seems.

Ms Bressington chose the day to post a Facebook message linking the ANZACS and “BIG PHARMA”.

With steam emanating from every orifice, I wrote a retort which has been published today on Online Opinion.  You can see it here:

ANZAC Day usurped for Bressington’s anti-science balderdash

Now, my dear friend Hilton Travis (Somewhere to Think / The Outspoken Wookie) has, quite rightly questioned whether I’m being hypocritical in slamming Ms Bressington, while not also criticising my friend, Catherine Deveny for her ANZAC Day tweets. It’s something I gave deep thought to in writing the article.

In a series of tweets, Catherine wrote:

“Anzac Day. A celebration of a society so fucked up it saw no other option than to go to war. Kill, rape and invade. Then glorify it.

“The ‘spirit of ANZAC’ does not define our nation. It’s our peaceful secular democracy rooted in workers rights, feminism & multiculturalism.

“Read your history. No war Australia has ever fought has resulted in our ‘freedom’ or ‘opportunities’.

“Days like #anzacday are simply a rewriting of history to stop the sucked in and ripped off burning down parliament and killing politicians.

“Not the day for it? The only day for it. Show respect? That’s exactly what I’m doing.

“It’s very clear Japan had no intention of invading Australia. The persistance (sic) of this myth is amazing/alarming/convenient.”

As usual, Dev was blunt and controversial and you may or may not agree with her view. But, in contrast to Wallace and Bressington, Deveny was not usurping ANZAC Day to push an unrelated ideological view. I think that is the key difference here.  In fact, I would say that many returned soldiers would agree with her sentiments.

I know my father who fought in World War II wanted nothing to do with ANZAC Day, the RSL or anything else that had any hint of ‘celebrating’ either the war or its memory. That’s not to disrespect those who feel otherwise – but I think it’s true that both views are reflective of our diggers, depending on their experience and personality.
For me, it is quite different to make anti-war commentary on ANZAC Day to using the memory of the soldiers to couple them with your own political, religious or ideological agenda.

Would I have tweeted as Dev did? No. But I’m not Dev. I would argue, however, that anti-war commentary such as Dev’s is in the tradition of Alan Seymour’s great play, “The One Day of the Year” and that ANZAC Day is an appropriate day for anti-war sentiment.  It is never, however, an appropriate day to clamber up on the bodies of dead soldiers to promote an agenda which they almost certainly didn’t share and had possibly never even considered.

Chrys Stevenson

Piers Akerman – Dinosaur Extraordinaire

The Creation Museum has it right! Dinosaurs and humans co-exist! The point was proven this weekend when Piers Akerman gave his pre-historic views on same-sex marriage on the ABC TV’s Insiders.

Here are some excerpts from the segment:

Dennis Atkins: All of the polling says people support it, anybody under 40, when they’re asked about it, say, “Why haven’t they done it yet?” That’s their point.

Barrie Cassidy: But Tony Abbott conceded that … he said that that’s the prevalent view.

A discussion ensues about how even Tony Abbott has softened his view on the issue, the Liberal Party is looking at the possibility of allowing a conscience vote and how Barack Obama’s view evolved so that he now supports same-sex marriage.

Piers Akerman interrupting the pro same-sex marriage reverie of the other panellists: Barrie! I’m sorry. This may be a big issue for the ABC, but I don’t think it’s a big issue across the country. I think it’s a very low level issue and if you ask Australians what really concerns them, gay marriage or homosexual marriage or whatever , is way down their list of priorities … It doesn’t interest me.

Barrie Cassidy: It goes to your value system …

Piers Akerman: It does go to your value system … well, the question is, “What is a man and what is a woman. What is a marriage?” A marriage is a man and a woman.

Barrie Cassidy: David Cameron says it’s an issue of basic human rights, and I think he’s right.

Piers Akerman: Well I don’t think he is right. Because, if you can have all of the social benefits of a civil union without calling it marriage, why do you want to go that extra step?

Barrie Cassidy: Because marriage is a basic civil right.

Piers Akerman: It’s a right between a man and a woman.

Barrie Cassidy: No! It’s a basic right for anybody ….

Piers Akerman: Between anybody? Then you’re talking about polygamy, then you’re talking about anything else …

Dinosaur CityReally, I’m almost past being cranky at the likes of Piers Akerman, Jim Wallace and Bill Muehlenberg. Now I’m just embarrassed for them. They are dinosaurs. They have all the hallmarks of antediluvian anachronisms blundering across an unfamiliar landscape, bellowing alarmingly as they find themselves in an environment which no longer supports the bigotry which sustains their kind.

Of course, every age has had its share of dinosaurs. And, as I contemplated the ridiculous sight of Piers Akerman channelling fellow fossil, Corey Bernardi on the Insiders, it occurred to me that, in a different age, Piers Akerman would have been making similarly ridiculous arguments about other issues.

For example, Piers, arguing that “…if you can have all of the social benefits of a civil union without calling it marriage, why do you want to go that extra step?” reminded me of the dinosaurs who argued against those new-fangled horseless carriages. Why would you want a motor vehicle when you can have a perfectly good horse?

As “Royal Blend” said of those faddish contraptions in a Barcaldine newspaper in 1896:

“… it is reckoned the whole idea will fizzle out in time like any other amusing toy invented for adults. The horseless carriages are described as clumsy to handle, awkward around corners, and utterly useless for climbing hills. To pull a tram-car that one horse can draw, an engine of six-horse power would have to be provided.”

Yep, just like same-sex marriage, horseless carriages are a passing phase, it will never catch on.

“This may be a big issue for the ABC, but I don’t think it’s a big issue across the country,” said Piers, suggesting that popular support for same-sex marriage is just some kind of media beat-up.

Yet, when a Senate Committee called for submissions into an inquiry into same-sex marriage they received an unprecedented 79,200 submissions – 46,000 of which supported the proposition.

Similarly, when the House of Representatives Committee launched on online poll to seek voters’ views on the issue, it received over 250,000 responses with a strong majority of 64 per cent favouring marriage equality.

It reminded me of how the dinosaurs of times past talked about another ‘very unimportant matter’.

“It appears to me that when Parliament meets the first thing to be considered will be women’s suffrage, and a lot of valuable time will be wasted on a (very unimportant) matter,” complained “Locus Standi” in a letter to the editor of the South Australian Chronicle on 2 June, 1894:

“Women’s suffrage is certainly not required at the present. Will 30 per cent of those who signed the petitions vote? … The temperance parties, who are considerably in the minority, are only asking for it. Then why should the minority rule the majority?”

And, like Akerman’s objections to same-sex marriage, “Locus Standi” had good reason to oppose the shocking idea of women being allowed to vote!

Opposed_to_suffrage“If women are given the power to dabble in politics things will soon come to a pretty climax in South Australia. Would it not be most unbecoming to see women with infants in their arms (especially on a wet day) wending their way through mud and rain to the polling-booth, and in nine cases out of ten give an informal vote? …

Who will cook the dinner, clean up the house, prepare the children for school, and attend to a score of other things that require looking after every day in a well-conducted and regulated house? If such a ridiculous thing were permitted it would be a severe blow against society … Some of the noisy election meetings ,would not be a fit place for women to attend ; home darning socks would suit them much better, leaving political matters to their husbands to look after.”

Yes, there have always been dinosaurs who have been happy to argue on moral grounds against granting equal rights to others.

As Piers suggests, allowing same-sex marriage is just the start of the slippery slope to total moral decay. He would, no doubt, have found a soul-mate in “Locus Standi” who reasoned:

“… if women are to be placed on the same footing as men as regards political matters, they should also be allowed the privilege of occupying seats in Parliament. That is what it must certainly come to in the end. Now is the time to have it nipped in the bud.”

In The Queenslander on 9 June 1866, for example, “Australasian” fears that if the Americans grant suffrage to ‘negros’, who knows what liberties might be given to non-Anglo-Saxon Australians!

Coloured rule“… As well give the suffrage to apes … The common sense of the Anglo-Saxon revolts against it … No white Australian wants to sit in Parliament with John Chinaman, or wishes to discuss the tariff with an aboriginal member from the Murrumbidgee. Negro suffrage involves the necessity of negro representatives in Congress, and at the very mention of such a phenomenon your religious emancipationist starts back in horror.”

Ah yes, no good Christian could countenance sitting next to a coloured person on the parliamentary bench. It would be like … like … well, like allowing homosexuals to get married! Unchristian, ungodly and unthinkable! Whatever would Jesus think about policies which seek to include those on the fringes of our society – women, people of colour, homosexuals? Well, we know, don’t we. Just consider how he treated those who were discriminated against in his own time – lepers, tax-collectors, gentiles, prostitutes. Oh, oops, that’s a rather an inconvenient analogy isn’t it?

You see, for all the arguments that might be made about the basic civil rights of homosexual couples to marry, the bottom line, for Piers, is that it is as morally repugnant as polygamy, bestiality or incest. I couldn’t help but imagine Piers as one of sea bathingthe dinosaurs who so vehemently opposed the unthinkable practice of mixed-sex bathing on Australian beaches. As “Reformer” argued in Adelaide’s “The Register” on 13 November 1916:

“… what may be the result, afterwards, of their being in one another’s company while there is but a single layer of thin fabric separating them from complete nudity? … I maintain that mixed bathing should be abolished. Although the young people may exercise restraint while in the water; they have received the incitement to evil.- The result or effect of mixed bathing is the evil and the only way to remove the effect is to remove the cause.”

“… the question is,” growls Piers, “’What is a man and what is a woman? What is a marriage?’”

Answering his own question he asserts: “A marriage is a man and a woman.”

Dinosaurs like Piers Akerman have always argued that equal rights cannot be granted to others because … well …. because those people who say they want to be equal are just not the same as us. Take those female upstarts from the women’s lib Women's Libmovement of the 70s who thought women should have equal rights and equal pay. As DP Kenny of Nedlands, Perth pointed out in the Women’s Weekly of 6 December 1972:

“As a mere male, may I say that Women’s Lib. is doomed to ultimate failure. It is founded on the fallacy that women,were they but given the opportunities, could be man’s equal. Why the disgruntled advocates of this movement should want to emulate men remains a mystery. Men, it seems, have no ambition to be other than masculine, as God made them. Women, todav, are becoming more and more ungodly in their irrational determination to get rid of their femininity – their most formidable weapon in the time-honored battle of the sexes.”

We can learn a lot from history. There have always been arch-bigots and arch-conservatives who have tried to stay the tide of progress. All have failed. Today, their foolish bigotry is preserved in the archives like insects preserved in amber. We can read their humorous arguments against horseless carriages, women’s suffrage, racial and sexual equality and marvel that anyone could have been so short-sighted, so prejudiced and so narrow-minded. Just so, in the not too distant future, there will be those who, long after same-sex marriage is as commonplace and uncontroversial as horseless carriages and women’s equality, will stumble across the rantings of a long forgotten blowhard called Piers Akerman and think, “Ah yes, just another dinosaur. How very wrong he was. Silly, silly man.”

Chrys Stevenson

Queensland teacher boasts anti-vax agenda

vaccines-are-not-toxicImagine if a teacher at your child’s school stood up in front of the class and said:

“Children, many people will tell you that when you become sexually active you should use condoms to protect yourselves from catching and transmitting disease. But, what they don’t tell you is that condoms are secretly impregnated with diseases. Condoms spread disease – they don’t protect you!”

This, of course, is one of the conspiracy theories spread about condom use. There is no credible evidence of this subterfuge, no credible scientist supports such a wacky claim. But, when someone in authority (e.g. a priest) tells it to those who are trusting and vulnerable, they are apt to believe it.

Imagine now, a similar scenario. A teacher at your child’s school tells them, instead, that there are ‘two sides’ to the government’s campaign to have all children vaccinated against childhood diseases; that the government is actively suppressing the fact that vaccinations are dangerous.

Should a teacher who is actively anti-vaccination be allowed to impart those views to her students? Certainly, students should have the benefit of a balanced argument where there is a genuine scientific disagreement. But, as with the creation vs evolution debate, the vaccination vs anti-vaccination debate is primarily ideological, not scientific. The ‘science’ from both creationists and anti-vaccine campaigners is too often faux-science from fringe dwellers, non-peer reviewed articles, quack ‘medical’ sites or cherry-picked and/or misinterpreted from genuine scientific research.

Today, my friend and fellow blogger, ‘Reasonable Hank’ has raised questions about the intentions of Anna Stancombe, a Queensland science teacher employed by the Queensland College of Teachers, a Queensland government statutory body.

Ms Stancombe is also the administrator of an anti-vaccination Facebook group called Vaccine Education Australia. The group’s ‘byline’ is:

“Educate Before You Vaccinate – showing the risks and dangers of vaccines and the benefits of natural health therapies.”

Natural therapies? Like the homeopathic vaccines recommended by the similarly misleadingly named Australian Vaccination Network? Even the British Homeopathic Association has been forced to admit they don’t work!

The screen captures below show Ms Stancombe a) verifying herself as an administrator of this anti-vaccination group and b) actively spreading unscientific anti-vaccination propaganda:

stancombe 4

Stancombe 1

This last comment, to be blunt, is total rubbish. America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that:

“The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.”

Note, they don’t say that no-one ever had an adverse reaction to a flu shot. They do say, however, that of all the millions of people who receive them, there are very few serious problems. Considering how many people die from the flu each year, the risk of having a flu vaccination is far, far less.

Similarly, the Queensland Health Department confirms:

“You definitely cannot get the influenza from having the flu shot. The flu vaccine contains no live flu virus at all – it’s actually a small dose of parts of inactivated flu virus. However, a small number of people might experience flu-like symptoms such as fever and tiredness as a result of the vaccination.”

Again, no denial that some people may have minor adverse reactions. But, does the flu vaccination cause the flu? No. It’s simply impossible and, quite frankly, a science teacher should know that.

Not surprisingly, the Facebook group, Vaccine Education Australia, for which Ms Stancombe is an administrator, also pushes the scientifically disproven bunkum that there is a causal link between vaccines and autism:

Vaccine Education

That is not to say, of course, that Ms Stancombe shares this loony view, but I saw no comment from her disputing it.

Now, the fact that Ms Stancombe is a teacher and also happens to be against vaccinations is no crime. She is as entitled as anyone to believe in any tinpot conspiracy theory she wishes. One might raise some concerns about a science teacher who is unable to grasp that an inactivated flu virus cannot cause the flu, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.

The fact is, if a teacher believes in leprechauns or magic crystals, that the moon landing was faked, that the American government engineered the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, that the British Royal Family are really alien reptiles or that long dead great aunt Enid haunts the downstairs broom closet, it is entirely their own business … Until they decide to use their privileged position as a teacher to proselytise their own, particular hobby-horse. This is our concern about Ms Stancombe.

Earlier this week, NSW Green’s MP, John Kaye spoke out about the dangers of anti-vaccination ‘voodoo’:

“The NSW State government has taken action against one of the most disgraceful sources of misinformation, the Australian Vaccination Network.

However there are still far too many parents falling prey to absurd and disproven voodoo claims and conspiracy theories.”

Ms Stancombe took offence, posting on Mr Kaye’s Facebook page:


Fair enough. As I said, there is no law that says teachers have to be reasonable outside of school hours – or that they have to like the Greens!

As often happens with these kinds of issues, Ms Stancombe’s comments were challenged by pro-vaccine advocates and a Facebook mêlée ensued. Par for the course. Move on – nothing to see here (although if you want to see the details, the conversation is covered more fully on Reasonable Hank’s blog).

What is alarming is that at the end of this Facebook debate, Ms Stancombe posted something particularly concerning. She said:

Stancombe 3

Let me just repeat that:

“I have school tomorrow to teach all about the pros and cons of vaccination. 🙂 I win.”

In the context of this argument, I think it is fair to assume that Ms Stancombe is not aiming to ‘teach all about the pros and cons of vaccination’ in the sense that the CDC and Queensland Health do. As we have seen above, these responsible, science-driven bodies freely admit that a very small number of people have severe adverse reactions to vaccinations. No-one who advocates vaccinations – or any other kind of prescription medication – suggests that there are never any side-effects, sometimes even lethal side-effects. The art of medicine is about balancing risk. No-one in the mainstream medical or scientific communities is hiding that. Any GP will tell you that there are pros and cons with vaccines but, except for a very few (largely identifiable) people, the pros massively outweigh the possible cons.

In concert with the Australian Vaccination Network, Ms Stancombe clearly believes, however, that there is a hidden ‘side’ to the vaccination debate which is not being told – one which she is eager to impart to her students. If this was not the case, how does she ‘win’ the vaccination argument she has been involved with?

Ms Stancombe’s employers may do well to ask exactly what she teaches in her classes. Does she tell her students that vaccinations are dangerous? That the flu vaccine will give them the flu? That measles and chicken pox are ‘harmless’ childhood diseases? That vaccines cause autism? That their own government is in a conspiracy against them?

If so, she is actively undermining the health message of the government which employs her, and may be risking the health of any children in her care. Further, if Ms Stancombe is teaching children and they believe her nonsense, she is putting the health of the next generation of children at risk.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I don’t know what Ms Stancombe teaches or intends to teach in her classroom – or, indeed, whether she teaches children or adults. I do know that she posts publicly against vaccination, that she has made at least one wildly inaccurate statement about the flu vaccine and that, in the context of an anti-vax argument, she has publicly stated that she intends to continue the discussion with her students, thereby ‘winning’ her anti-vaccination argument.

I believe, at the very least, this warrants an investigation from her employer and a warning that her private prejudices should not – indeed, must not – be brought into the class room.

Ms Stancombe’s stance on anti-vaccination is her own business – she is entitled to her own opinion, no matter how misguided. She is not, however, entitled to endanger public health by teaching unscientific nonsense to either children or adults while on the government pay roll.

Chrys Stevenson

Related Articles:

Queensland anti-vaccine science teacher to teach students about immunisation? – Reasonable Hank

I have to fence my damn pool to keep your kids safe, you bloody vaccinate your kids to keep mine safe! – Ya Think?

6 things to say when you’re faced with anti-vaccine rhetoric – Dr Rachael Dunlop, Mamamia

Children Raised by Same-Sex Couples Seek Political Audience

rainbow familyHow often have we heard politicians who are opposed to same-sex marriage whine, “What about the children? We have to think about the children!

It makes you wonder how many children raised by same-sex parents they’ve actually met. It makes you wonder whether they have read any of the many studies which show that children raised by same-sex parents do every bit as well as those raised by heterosexual couples.

The majority of Australians support equal marriage and politicians who still harbour doubts about the wisdom of voting in favour of it have a responsibility to inform themselves fully on this issue – not just vote based on their own, preconceived prejudices.

Recently, Shelley Argent of PFLAG Queensland  (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) issued invitations to our federal MPs and Senators to meet with her and some young people, raised in same-sex families. The response has been nothing short of underwhelming.

It seems our political representatives need a bit of a kick up the proverbial arse – and that’s where you come in, dear readers.

Could you take a little time over the next couple of days to write to your political representatives and ask them to do what they’re paid for – represent you and spend some time actually talking to the people they’re making decisions for.

I’ve written to my political representatives today. You may wish to copy or amend my letter as you see fit:

Dear …..

I was disappointed to hear that, despite sending invitations to Senators and MPs to meet with her in Canberra on 28 or 29 May,  Shelley Argent of PFLAG Queensland is having difficulty getting our political representatives to respond.

Ms Argent has sent letters of request to MPs and Senators to meet with her and with Maya, Nick and Tallay, three young adults who want to tell their stories to those who worry about the children in same sex families. 

As a Queenslander and one of the majority of Australians who supports equal marriage, I would like to ask you to meet with Ms Argent during her stay in Canberra and to encourage your fellow party members and senators to do likewise. Shelley Argent can be contacted at:

Chrys Stevenson (Ms.)
(Address and phone number supplied)

If you’re unsure of who represents you, you can click this link and type your postcode into the box provided.

Generally, senators email addresses follow the format: – It may be slightly different for those with common names e.g.

It would be great if my readers could help with this. Let’s try to persuade our political representatives to inform themselves fully on this incredibly important issue of justice and equality for all Australian citizens.

Chrys Stevenson

Sometimes, you just have to put your money where your mouth is ….

moneyheartI’ve just been chatting on Facebook about my state of ‘self-propelled penury’. Money is scarce for almost everyone, I guess, yet, in this affluent society, the idea of poverty is rather subjective. Not too many of us who are crying poor are scratching out a living on a rubbish tip.

Just so, while complaining about my financial status, I simultaneously managed to spend $70 on nail polish today. So often it seems that we can manage to afford the things we really want, but not afford those things we think we can do without. I can put off having the car serviced for months while still being able to afford a gorgeous pair of boots.

Similarly, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to turning away people asking for donations with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry. It’s a good cause, but I just can’t afford it.”  But, deep down, I know that if a stunning ‘must-have’ jacket came up on eBay or if I  stumbled upon a spectacular pair of earrings at Myer, I’d manage to afford those. It’s not a criticism of me or anyone else. I expect it’s human nature and I rather enjoy the quirkiness of human nature.

Nevertheless, while talking about my first-world penury today, and anticipating the arrival of my blingy nail polish, I received an email from Rodney Croome at Australian Marriage Equality. In a message that could have been tailored specifically to insert Rodney’s hand into my pocket, it began:

Good afternoon, Chrys
Help us combat the Australian Christian Lobby

Well, hell yeah! I was reaching for my purse before I’d even read the rest of the email!

Rodney continued:

Around the world we are seeing more and more countries enacting marriage equality. This week alone, both France and Uruguay took the final steps to allow same-sex couples to marry. Next week it will be New Zealand.

We need your help to make marriage equality a reality in Australia. We are currently surveying all election candidates. The results show more Labor and Coalition MPs are going to the election supporting reform than ever before.

At the same time the Australian Christian Lobby, which believes smoking is healthier than being gay is planning a well-funded campaign to ensure candidates like Corey Bernardi and Bob Katter get re-elected.

To combat its campaign we need your support to fund letter box drops, radio and newspaper adverts, web campaigns & lobbying activities.
Unlike the ACL, who receive large corporate donations, we are 100% voluntary grass roots organisation.

If marriage equality is important to you, take one minute to keep us going. We need your support more than ever before to achieve marriage equality.

Together we can do this,
Rodney Croome
National Director for the Australian Marriage Equality

I write a lot about marriage equality. I write a lot about the vile bigotry of the Australian Christian Lobby. It would be easy to argue that the time I put into this is a ‘donation in kind’ to the cause. And, in a way, that’s true. But, y’know, sometimes words are just not enough. There are arch-bigots out there funding the Australian Christian Lobby and, if we’re going to get our message of love and inclusion and equality and justice across to the wider Australian public and put pressure on pollies, it’s going to take cold, hard cash.

So, I’m throwing in the price of a few bottles of glittery nail varnish by donating $50 to the cause. I wonder if there’s some little luxury you can do without – or offset the cost of – with a similar donation?

You can donate at the links above, or DONATE HERE.  And please, share this donation request with your own networks.

Chrys Stevenson

Atheist Survey: Religion – A force for good or bad?

abraham-lincoln-inspirational-quotes-4Last year, my friend Professor Tom Arcaro launched a worldwide survey of atheists. The response was overwhelming with over 8,000 people worldwide completing the survey, including nearly 800 from Australia and New Zealand.

The beauty of the survey is that it allowed plenty of room for comments which means we now have the ability to publish material which allows atheists to speak with their own voices.  Early results suggest that the survey comments will powerfully challenge the stereotype of the Christian-hating, militant, fundamentalist atheist!

We are planning a series of articles over the next 12 months or so and are also hoping to find a publisher so that we can publish the results in a book.

I’ve been looking at some of the results from the Australasian cohort and very interesting they are! So far, I’ve written two essays covering the first two survey questions on the Elon University (North Carolina) blog – Serving Atheists.

The morality question – the Australasian response

Religion – A force for bad or good?

Here’s an excerpt from Religion – A force for bad or good?:

Is religion necessary?

While acknowledging that religion is not ‘all bad’, some respondents insist that the ‘good’ done by religion is not (or need not be) dependent upon religious belief.

The consensus is aptly summarised by an IT programmer from Australia:

“All good forces which stem from religious belief don’t need religious belief to come about, but many bad forces which stem from religious belief could not come about without it.”

“Religion has produced good,” concedes a female lawyer from Australia, explaining that:

“Many charities, et cetera are established and continued through religion, and possibly would not continue to exist in a non-religious world. However equally, religion has often created the problems which the charities need to meet in the first place (e.g. poverty caused by having too many children because of the ban on contraception). However, there is a great deal of evil perpetuated in the world because of religion. And none of the good things in the world rely on religion to exist, they could exist just as much without religion.”

This view is expanded upon by a 30 year old, unemployed Australian respondent:

 “Human creativity in the form of say architecture or music does not require religion as a source, the people that create such art are talented regardless of their religion and could therefore have achieved their masterpieces anyway; the only thing religion provided that might otherwise have been difficult to obtain was funding. Other things such as community, charity, et cetera, are demonstrably provided by other organisations or pursuits independent of religion. Thus the positive aspects unique to religion are minimal, while I think the negatives such as war and ‘ethnic cleansing’ outweigh these by far.”

“While religion does give a lot of people hope, there are plenty of secular reasons for people to have hope for the future, and the air of intolerance that many religions create far outweighs any good they have done,” argues a 20 year old tertiary student from Australia.

The point is neatly summarised by another Australian student, “The good caused by religion would occur without it. The bad, in many instances, would not.”

Indeed, the consensus seems to be that:

“Actions which are actually beneficial to society are good whether or not done from religious motivation. But there are many harmful actions which are only done from religious motivation, and have no secular basis; so the net effect of religion on behaviour is significantly harmful.”

To read more, click here to go to the Serving Atheists blog.

Chrys Stevenson

PS:  Do you like the ‘new look’ Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear blog?  One of my readers, Glenn Watson, inspired me by designing a new ‘Gladly’ Bear’ for me (see top right side bar).  There are, however, some things I’d like to change to make the blog easier for you guys to read but, I regret, it’s beyond my limited technological capability.  If any of my readers have a working knowledge of CSS and are willing to help me modify the blog theme, please contact me at – I’d be very, very grateful.