Tuesday 9 August 2011

The Punch on the Census

Frank Gomez, a well known Sydney based atheist, secularist, humanist, ethics teacher and banker, wrote to day an excellent article on the cenus for The Punch. And it is not just excellent because it features www.whymarknoreligion.org, our meta FAQ on the census. And the comment section is definitely also worth a look.
Christian organisations, such as the ACL, who ask people to mark "Chrisitan" even if  they no longer practice their religion should at least be able to answer the following point that Frank raised:
If I say I am Catholic simply because I was raised Catholic, though I have not visited a church in 20 twenty years and I am deeply sceptical of the existence of a supernatural creator, then what are the Census results actually saying?
If Catholicism in particular, or Christianity in general, has become so watered down that they even ask atheists like me to mark the Christianity,  what do they stand for? Marking Christian would then become a bigger joke, than marking Jedi or Pastafarian.

Originally posted by ansgar

Friday 5 August 2011

Fund Raising for Bus Campaign on Track

Funds Raised for Sydney Atheists Bus

Last Saturday we launched the Sydney Atheists Bus campaign officially at Cafe Well Connected, in Glebe. It was not just a nice evening among free-thinker, but also raised more than $800. Thanks to everybody, especially to Murray for digging deep to get the two best seats on the bus.

The raised fund will comfortably cover the banners that will be attached to the bus; you see one of them here hanging prominently on Glebe Point Road. If you want to contribute to also cover the bus hire, feel free to donate.

Originally posted by ansgar

Monday 1 August 2011

Leslie Cannold reports from Chaplained schools

" While there are always exceptions to the rule, in my 14 years of teaching, I am not aware of a single Chaplain who has contributed any time to either PD or extra-curricular activites. Nor am I aware of a Chaplain completing a 4 year degree as we do. Yet, Chaplains are afforded all the priveleges of a teacher without the responsibilities.

These responsibilities include the Child Protection Policy. As a male teacher I am not permitted to sit with a female student one-on-one with the door closed to my office/room. I must keep the door open and must be in clear sight of other students or staff. School Chaplains do most of their 'counselling' one-on-one, out-of-sight and behind closed doors. This implies that while teachers cannot be trusted, those attached to a Christian church can be, despite the mounting number of sexual assaults on children perpetrated by the clergy."
read the rest on Leslie Cannold's blog

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

A Guide to the Census Guides

As you probably know, the 2011 census will take place on August 9th. Some of you may already have received the census forms. Even though the census has many questions, the religion question gets all the attention. Various groups have asked people to carefully consider which religion they mark; they should only mark religions they actually follow. You can see that the question hasn't been changed since 1971; seven of the possible answers are some form of Christianity. Even Christians have complained that they wouldn't know which denomination to choose. This was different in 1971, when Anglicans and Catholics considered each other separate species. Even though a few of them interbred succesfully.

Then there is the field "Other", which lets you fill in your religion of choice. But beware. The Australian Bureau of Statistics only accepts answers that follow their classification scheme. You can be an anarchist, calathumpian, infidel, or zilch (all code 7010 atheist), but you cannot be Jedi, or Pastafarian. If you fill in one of the latter, your answer will be ignored as "Not defined". And finally, you've got the field "No Religion". We advice to mark this field. That you follow no religion is all the ABS needs to know.

There are some great campaigns websites that will give you more information. First, of course the AFA website CensusNoReligion.org. The AFA is also responsible for the "Mark No Religion" billboards that you might have seen, and you might have seen Jason Ball on TV explaining the campaign. Also worth a visit is the Queensland Humanist Census-Campaign website. And finally, Reason Australia - the new umbrella organisation for free thinking groups - has information on the census on its website as well.

Furthermore, there are plenty of blogs that cover the topic. Just to mention three that are especially noteworthy. The first is Andrew Skegg's Guide to the Census. Browse his blog; he has more on the topic. Then there is Danny Allen's A Vote For Jedi Is A Vote For Jim Wallace. If you don't know who Jim Wallace is, he is the best advertising for reducing the influence of religion in politics. But remarkable is also Ravings and Rantings of &rew. Written by an engaged Anglican, who asks not to pretend to be Anglican, if you do not know or care what it means to be Anglican.

Finally, there is our own meta FAQ, a site that addresses the most common misconceptions. Go to WhyMarkNoReligion.org. You are welcome to add your own response to a common misconception. Simply give a tagline that expresses a misconception, and a measured response. My favourite misconception at this time is Mosques will be built everywhere, if you don't mark Christian. If you don't lie on your census form, then the terrorists win.

Originally posted  by ansgar

Thursday 28 July 2011

Census videos

Not religious? Please mark "no religion" on Census night

Kitty Flanagan on marking "No Religion" in the Census

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Sydney Atheists Big Day Out on You Tube

If you want to know what went on at the Sydney Atheists Big Day Out, and what Ian and Pell's sidekick did discuss, the YouTube video is out.

Originally posted by ansgar

Saturday 30 April 2011

Cover Godesses on City Hub

Sydney's alternative newpaper City Hub feastured Fleur, Carrie, and Kerry prominently on their April 21 cover.
Journalist Kieran Adair of City Hub spend the entire day on the bus to report on the Chaplaincy and Census campaign. Read also the interview with Fleur and Andrew inside.

Originally posted by ansgar

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Mardis Gras 2011 photos

IMGP2811 IMGP2816 IMGP2821 IMGP2828 IMGP2830

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Sydney Atheists Big Day Out photo gallery

Cardinal Pell giving Sydney Atheists a sour look
Cardinal Pell and Sydney Atheists
The Big Red Bus stops at Kirribilli to deliver our petition against the $440 million National School Chaplaincy Program of providing unqualified Christians to every State school instead of spending the money on qualified school psychologists or medical research, which is being cut by $400 million to save costs
Apple of knowledge or jelly serpent?
Apple of knowledge or jelly serpent?

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Saturday 16 April 2011

Sydney Atheists BIG Day Out

“There is every cause for angst if people give up on God.”, Bishop Anthony Fisher declared last Easter, receiving support from Archbishop Peter Jensen and Cardinal George Pell. On Palm Sunday, April 17, Sydney Atheists will respond with their first ever bus campaign with the motto "No God? No Worries."
Inspired by similar campaigns in Europe and the UK, an original red double-decker bus bearing the motto "No God? No Worries" will be cruising the streets of Sydney, meeting congregations at St Marys and St Andrews as well as delivering a petition to the Prime Minister at Kirribilli House.
Apart from the simple message that it is possible to be "Good without God", we prepared a petition that the Chaplaincy in Schools program not be misused for religious recruiting. Furthermore, we ask Australians who are not religious, to actually mark "No religion" at the upcoming census.
Join us on our tour through Sydney to support Atheism as a completely normal point of view. Something you shouldn't worry about. The bus will depart at 10am from Humanist House, Chippendale. The seats on the bus have been allocated, but you are invited to join us at one of our stops in Sydney's CBD. The "No God? No Worries" bus route includes stops at St Marys Cathedral (11:30am), Kirribilli House (12:45pm) and St Andrews/Town Hall Square (2:45pm).
And in case that you unfortunately cannot make it altogether, but want to support us anyway, there is always a way to donate. The easiest way to donate to Sydney Atheists is through PayPal's secure servers.
Alternatively, you can make a deposit directly to the Sydney Atheists St George Bank account: BSB 112-879 account no. 410 136 189.

Originally posted by ansgar

Friday 15 April 2011

Petition on the National School Chaplaincy Program


This petition of certain concerned citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House the discriminatory character of the National School Chaplaincy Program which was introduced by the Coalition Government and extended by present Prime Minister.
Rather than being a resource for children to call on when in need, it has allowed unqualified persons, who would not normally be granted access to schools, to promote religious programs against the wishes of many parents. In our diverse and multi-cultural society, with many religions and belief systems, it is the government's moral and ethical responsibility to maintain the separation of Church and State - especially in our public schools - to ensure a cohesive community where one interest group is not privileged over any other.
We therefore ask the House to ensure that only persons qualified in social work, counselling or psychology at a recognised tertiary institution in Australia - regardless of their or their institutions religious views - be permitted to provide genuine support for our children under the Chaplaincy program.
Say NO to the National School Chaplaincy ProgramIf you want to support this petition, please download the form, print it and have friends and family sign it. The parliament wants it on paper. Please return it at the next meetup, or at the Big Day Out, our bus campaign. Or send it to Sydney Atheists, PO Box K784, Haymarket, NSW 1240.

Originally posted by ansgar

Facts About The Census

Facts About The Census

  • The coming census in Australia is an important chance to make sure your interests are on record.
  • It is time the Australian community questioned whether they hold religious beliefs or not.
  • How you answer this question in the census will influence decisions by Australian governments.
  • Special concessions and exemptions for religious organisations are justified on the basis of census data.
  • The right of Churches to discriminate against some groups is justified on the basis of census data.
  • Planning of educational facilities, aged care and other social services provided by religion-based organisations relies on accurate census data.
  • The location of churches buildings; the assignment of chaplains to hospitals, prisons, armed services and universities; the allocation of time on public radio and other media, they all rely on accurate census data.
  • Exaggerations and inaccuracies in the census data may lead to religious groups wielding unrepresentative influence within government.
  • Religious leaders and lobbyists will use census data to influence the government, even on topics that are not even religious.
Originally posted by ansgar

Easter Message

 Easter Message

No God? No Worries. Having no religion shouldn’t be an issue. Nothing you’d worry about. After all, it’s just people who live and love their life - just like you - and who happen not to have religious beliefs. Some more outspoken, surely, others simply not that interested. No Worries? It should be obvious, but unfortunately, Sydney’s top clerics want you to believe otherwise. Here is what Anthony Fisher, Bishop of Paramatta said last Easter:
The century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, the era of mass murder, mass abortion and mass breakdown of relationships, this century of state-imposed or culture-supported atheism, has shown there is every cause for angst if people give up on God.
Totalitarian rule in the 20th century was devastating. But Fisher's statement is misleading and dishonest. For one, the most notorious dictator, Hitler, a self-described Catholic, endorsed religion as foundation of society, claimed publicly to do Gods work, banned free-thinking organisations, persecuted their leaders, while German soldiers wore the inscription ''God with us''. In return, Catholic bishops called to support the regime, took an oath of loyalty, and rung the bells to celebrate a failed assassination. Surely, Hitler's ideology was racist, not religious, informed by an unholy mix of social Darwinism, nationalism, and centuries of church sanctioned anti-Semitism. Fisher might have also forgotten Catholic support for totalitarian regimes, like Franco's Spain, or for their members, like Pinochet.
Totalitarian rule of the 20th century shows what happens if critical thought and free speech is given up in favour of dogma and ideology. Fisher's statement is not only demeaning to atheists who fought totalitarianism. Many courageous religious people, of all denominations, Catholics included, stood up and defended the rights and freedoms of others.
George Santayana famously warned "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again."

Easter Message (2)

Anthony Fisher was not alone in villifying Atheists in his Easter sermon last year. Here is what George Pell, Catholic bishop of Sydney had to say:
The many excellent government agencies are religiously neutral, secular and not anti-God, paid for largely by the taxes of the Christian majority. We thank God for them too. But we find no community services sponsored by the atheists.
26% of Australians are Catholics, 19% Anglicans, and 19% have no religion, according to the 2006 census. They all pay taxes, it is not a religious priviledge.
Quite the opposite, actually. Religious organisations in Australia are tax-exempt. Not just activities that benefit the community, fight poverty, and promote education - which we support - but also activities that promote religion, or are ordinary business. As atheists we would love not to subsidise the Catholic Church to manage their 100bn worth of wealth. We would rather give our taxes to one of the many secular charities that we already donate to. Like Amnesty International, Doctors without Border, the Red Cross, or Oxfam.

Easter Message (3)

The Anglicans could not let the Catholics have the playing field to themselves. Here is what Anglican Peter Jensen inculded in his Easter message last year:
As we can see by the sheer passion and virulence of the atheist - they seem to hate the Christian God - we are not dealing here with cool philosophy up against faith without a brain.
Atheism is disbelief in gods, and reasons are plenty. Like the fact that religious claims are unproven, absurd, contradictory or vacuous. As such, it is cool philosophy.
Atheists, however, are passionate people. They get passionate when a bishop protects a child abuser. When a religious school suspends a student for being gay. When Christian lobbyists deny children of non-religious parents an alternative to scripture class.
Atheists get passionate when civil liberties get undermined for a tax-payer subsidised religious youth event. When religions demand the right to discriminate women, gays, and people of other or no faith. When they oppress women. When religions ask not to be criticised because of their religion. We are passionate, because rather than caring for a god, who might not exist, we care for humans, who do.

Originally posted by ansgar

If You’re Not Religious For God’s Sake Say So

If You’re Not Religious
For God’s Sake
Say So

  • The 2011 Census will ask for your religion.
  • Tick a religion and its clergy will speak for you, whether you share their views, or not.
  • Census answers affect how governments spend money!
  • Please, please, answer it accurately.
  • Why tick a religion you don't actually practice?
  • Why tick a religion you actually disagree with?
  • Don't tick your childhood religion out of habit.
  • Children can choose when they're older - mark `No religion'.
  • If you don't go to church - mark `No religion'.
  • If you're spiritual, but not religious - mark `No religion'.
  • If you're just a cultural Anglican, Catholic, Jew, or Muslim - mark `No religion'.
  • Don't put Jedi or Pastafarian - your answer isn't counted - mark `No religion'.
  • Not religious now! - mark 'No religion'.
Originally posted by ansgar

Thursday 14 April 2011

Protests at Surry Hills Women's Clinic

Sydney Atheists in response to the erroneous reporting on the Catholic Website, www.sydneycatholic.org, wish to advise the following:
The counter protest was initiated by Laura, who personally opposed the continued harassment of vulnerable women and the workers of the PreTerm Women's Clinic. Laura herself is not an Atheist, and not a member of Sydney Atheists. Laura was offered advice and support from Sydney Atheists. Because of a mutual interest in human rights, Sydney Atheists applied for a permit. With the permit granted, Laura has continued to organise the protest, and the protest now includes some members of Sydney Atheists.
Sydney Atheists' position on the matter of abortion and religious organisations picketing women's health clinics is as follows:
Whether to have a pregnancy terminated or not is a personal matter for a woman. A woman should be able to decide this without judgement, condemnation or undue influence in either direction. We strongly support the ideal that a woman faced with this decision should receive professional and impartial counselling from qualified medical and mental health practitioners. We condemn the use of emotional and psychological bullying used by religious organisations to influence these personal matters.

Originally posted by ansgar

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Fund Raising Dinner Sydney Atheists Big Day Out

Sydney Atheists are planning a bus trip to increase the profile of atheism as legitimate viewpoint. In the week before Easter we'll be visiting iconic place in Sydney in our own luxury transport, a double-decker London bus, prominently bearing our message "No god? No worries". We will also use the opportunity to deliver a petition on the National Chaplaincy to Julia Gillard in Kirribilli.
Sydney Atheist Bus
On 2nd of April we will have fundraising dinner. It is at Cafe Well Connected on Glebe Pt Rd in Gelbe. The dinner is $50 ($30 with concession). At this dinner you'll have the opportunity to win two of the best seats in the bus, the front row, upstairs.
This dinner will be on a first come first served basis, so if you want to get in, RSVP ASAP.  Go to either our meetup, or our facebook page. If you cannot make it, but want to see the bus driving, feel free to donate.
More details on the bus campaign will be made available closer to the event.

Originally posted by ansgar

Monday 28 March 2011

Sapolsky on Religion

This video talk on blip.tv is 80 minutes long, but fascinating all the way through. (a disorder that makes you wash your hands was a survival trait before the discovery of hygiene!)

Prof. Robert Sapolsky Bio 150/250, Spring 2002 Human Behavioral Biology

The Biology of Religion

I. Some opening caveats, disclaimers and fine print

II. Religion and belief

1. A return to the final question of the schizophrenia lecture

2. Genes and the advantages of intermediate penetrance: sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis....and schizophrenia?

3. The Kety schizophrenia adoption studies: their second discovery, and the continuum of traits.

4. Schizotypal personality disorder: social withdrawal, odd perceptual experiences, a tendency towards concreteness, metamagical belief.

5. Who are the traditional schizotypals?

a. Paul Radin, Erwin Ackerknecht and Paul Devereux: hearing voices at the right time

b. Alfred Kroeber’s elaboration: “Psychosis or Social Sanction.” The common roots of ‘sanction’ and ‘sanctuary.’

c. Western cultures and schizotypalism

III. Religion and ritualistic practices

1. Obsessive compulsive disorder

a. Obsessive thoughts: intrusions, blasphemies, and so on.

b. Compulsive rituals: self-cleansing, food preparation, leaving and entering, numerology and symmetry

c. Genetic, neuroanatomical and neurochemical hints

2. Ritualism of the religious orthodoxy

3. Hindu Brahmans: hours of daily purification rituals involving cleansing, cyclical nostril breathing, defecation, ratios of handfuls of food from the left versus right hand, rules for entering temples....

4. Orthodox Jewry and the magical combination of 365 prohibitions and 248 requirements: cleansing, food preparation, and the importance of numerology over content.

5. Orthodox Islam: rules for numbers of mouthfuls of water, for entering and leaving a lavatory, for handwashing, and, of course, magical numbers.

6. The rituals of Orthodox Christianity: the magical number 3, the multiplicities of Hail Marys and rosary use down to Lutheran organists advised about dotted rhythms in the Lutheran hymnal

7. Freud: “obsessional neurosis as individual religiosity and religion as a universal obsessional neurosis.”

8. Ignatius Loyola and the 15th century concept of “scrupulosity.”

9. The underlying adaptive value of anxiety reduction

10. Making a living as an obsessive compulsive

a. An example in a 16th century monk named Luder: “The more you cleanse yourself, the dirtier you get.”

11. Why should OCD and religious rituals have such similar patterns?

a. An ecological explanation

b. A historical explanation

IV. Religion and the attribution of causality

1. Superstitious conditioning in animals

2. Hippocampal damage and increased vulnerability to superstitious conditioning.

V. Philosophical religiosity

1. Temporal lobe epilepsy: humorlessness; perseveration; neophobia and a "sticky" or "viscous" personality; hypergraphia; concern with religious issues.

Some concluding thoughts: What am I not saying

1. You gotta be crazy to be religious

2. That most people’s religiousness is biologically suspect

3. That faith is any more biologically accessible or interesting than is loss of faith

Some further readings:

Mark Saltzman, Lying Awake (a superb novel about the religious implications of temporal lobe epilepsy).

David S Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral. 2002 Univ. Chicago Press. Religious groups as units of selection.
Sapolsky. “Circling the blanket for God.” In: The Trouble With Testosterone’ and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Thursday 10 March 2011

Australian Census Campaign

Say where you are now, not where you used to be.
Don't enter your childhood religion on the Census if you've left it behind.
Lets give the Government accurate information so they don't believe that you believe in banning Stem Cell Research, Abortion rights, and Free Speech.

Due to a misreading of public sentiment, we have such blatantly unconstitutional practices as religious observance forced in Parliament, and religious tests being applied to Government appointments in State schools. We have millions in Government funding to send Catholics to Rome, and for organising World Catholic Youth Day. Don't write "Jedi", the Bureau of Statistics won't count it. Stand up and be counted.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Sunday 27 February 2011

Sydney Atheists Podcast Episode 11 - Addressing Our Critics

Since episodes 9 and 10 appeared, a couple of critics have emerged to question the team. So in this episode, we discuss and respond to our critics.
Download episode 11 here
First, jokes: What constitutes acceptable subject matter for a joke? An anglican minister from Neutral Bay takes exception to a joke posted on twitter by Jason, and the whole team respond, with hilarious results
Second, nuclear medicine: Are the Australian greens pro or anti-nuclear medicine? Does their policy mean what a candidate from QLD says it means? Ian has done the research.
Note: The Greens were approached for an interview on this subject but were unresponsive
If you're offended by jokes, or have a dogmatic position on nuclear policy, you may want to go listen to another podcast, just until the next episode emerges.

As ever, the opinions expressed by the team do not reflect the opinions of Sydney Atheists Inc, a non-profit body registered in NSW.
George Carlin: Rape can be funny:

The vagina joke:
Greens nuclear policy:

Originally posted by drunkenmadman

Sunday 20 February 2011

Stop the National School Priest Program

Vote against the National School Priest Chaplain Program
 You can vote to make fighting the illegal National School Priest Program a priority for GetUp
"Chaplain" is just a code word for Priest.
A Federal government tax-payer funded program for priests in every State School is obscene. Its a violation of the Anti-Discimination Act AND Section 116 of the Australian Constitution to demand a test of religion for a government funded job. State Schools have greater needs than a Government Priest.
The High Court Challenge to the program is here: www.highcourtchallenge.com/

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Various videos

If Atheists Acted Religious


If Heaven really existed

Even Stephen on religion

Christopher Hitchens Destroys Biblical miracle claims

Double Standard

Four Questions for an Atheist

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Sydney Atheists Podcast Episode 10 - Circumcision

Download the episode here

This week, The Sydney Atheists' Podcast takes on the knotty subject of Circumcision, with a hearty helping of "stuff you don't need to know about your hosts". This podcast discusses a sensitive issue in an irreverent style. Bring your sense of humour. Also, We should probably apologise to Cormack Murphy O'Connor for Jason mixing him up with Bishop Casey. Cormack, you better not turn out to have a secret family in the US, or this apology will be for naught.

For this episode, we're giving you a diet of wikipedia reading:
Please follow the references from each article to get the complete picture.

Originally posted by drunkenmadman

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Sydney Atheists Podcast Episode 9 - The Atheists' Reading List

Hosted By Dave The Happy Singer, with Jason Brown and Ian Woolf
Produced by Jason Brown

Many of the books mentioned in this episode can be purchased from Embiggen Books

Books we mentioned and topics we discussed in this episode:

The God Delusion (Dawkins)

God Is Not Great (Hitchens)

50 reasons people give for believing in a god (Guy P. Harrison)

Godless (Dan Barker)

His Dark Materials trilogy (Phillip Pullman)

The Heaven Election, starring Dave The Happy Singer as Jesus

The infamous NOMA essay can be read in "Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms" by Stephen Jay Gould

The Australian Book Of Atheism (ed. Warren Bonnett)

Jason is probably mistaken about the background of convicts on the first fleet, though details are incomplete

Primary Ethics

The High Price Of Heaven (David Marr)

Marrickville Council joins Israeli Boycott

ANSTO  and the Lucas Heights reactor

The Demon Haunted World (Sagan)

The Blind Watchmaker
The Greatest Show On Earth (Dawkins)

Why People Believe Weird Things (Shermer)

Everything You Know About God Is Wrong (Neil Gaiman)

Good Omens (Pratchett/Gaiman)

Jesus Potter, Harry Christ (pub. Holy Blasphemy)

Too bad they never made any sequels to The Matrix

Chocolat (Joanne Harris)

The Science Of Discworld series

Small Gods (Pratchett)

Originally posted by drunkenmadman