Thursday 26 December 2013

‘None’ could be religion’s new normal in Britain, USA

Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for the Religion News Service, noting that "no religion is the new religion" in Britain:

Just in time for Christmas, new statistics show “no religion is the new religion” in Great Britain, according to a study released Monday.
The study, by Westminster Faith Debates, finds 38 percent adults in Great Britain, and 48 percent of those ages 18 to 29, checked no religion in online surveys conducted in January and June by YouGov.
“Whilst it’s always possible that this trend could be reversed, it gets less and less likely as the chain of memory connecting young people to religion stretches and snaps,” said Lancaster University sociologist, an organizer of the public debates on religion topics and author of the study.
These numbers fall midway between the findings of two other British studies that both show a trend away from the pews.
The British Social Attitudes Study in 2012 found 48 percent claimed to have no religion. And the 2011 Census reported about 25 percent of those surveyed in England and Wales said they were “nones,” including 32 percent of those under age 25.
“Nones” is an umbrella term that includes atheists, agnostics, humanists and a significant number who say they believe in God but don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition. It was popularized by the American Religious Identification Survey, which tracked the rise in U.S. “nones” from 8 percent in 1990 to nearly 16 percent in 2009.
In 2012, the Pew Research Center calculated that about 20 percent of Americans overall are “nones” but Gallup put the number slightly lower at less than 18 percent...
Still, no matter how you ask or calculate it, “no religion” is growing at a faster rate than religions in Great Britain and the USA.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Times for Atheism

Dave Nicose, the president of the American Humanist Association, notes that irreligion is on the rise in America in his popular piece on Psychology Today:
As Americans gather to celebrate Christmas, fewer and fewer actually believe they are celebrating the birth of a divine being who subsequently died and then rose from the dead. But if you look around during the holiday season, that doesn't seem to matter much.
Atheism continues to grow in America. That’s the clear message from a Harris poll released last week, which shows that God-belief is declining sharply. While 74 percent still say they believe in God, that figure is down from 82 percent in three previous polls in 2009, 2007, and 2005. The remaining 26 percent said they did not believe in God (12 percent) or were not sure (14 percent).
Almost all the numbers in the poll indicate that America is gravitating away from supernatural beliefs. Belief in miracles is down (76 percent in 2009, 72 percent in 2013), as is belief that Jesus was God or the son of God (73/68), or in the resurrection (70/65), survival of a soul after death (71/64), and several other supernatural religious concepts...
The polling also confirmed previous data showing that secularity is most prevalent among younger generations. God-belief is lowest in those under age 36 (at just 64 percent) and climbs with each older age category.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Friday 13th December debate.

The debate, "My former religion is more ridiculous than yours" brought out a record number of attendees for Sydney Atheists. On behalf of the committee and all the members of Sydney Atheists, I would like to say a big thank you to all those who contributed to and attended the function. I would also like to thank the handful of religious devotees who helped spice up the evening.

Overall it showed how each religion is so ridiculous in so many ways and makes one wonder why the  adherents of those religions are so blind to the absurdities that are so plain for outsiders to see.

Our next talk evening will be Friday the 14th of February and will include Teresa Russell from Primary Ethics. Primary Ethics is a body that provides Ethics classes as an alternative to Scripture fantasies in Primary schools in NSW. Our second talk will be given by Bruce Long, one of our philosophers who will discuss "The meaning of life".

Happy 2014 to all,

Steve Marton

Thursday 5 December 2013

Annual General Meeting 2013

The AGM was held on the 4th of December 2013.

Both changes to the constitution were approved.

An election for a new committee was held.

Committee members were elected as follows:

President: Steve Marton
Vice-President: Jenny Chioatto
Secretary: Nick Sewell
Treasurer: Semih Ilhan
Public Relations Officer: Thomas Kraemer
Assistant Secretary / Treasurer: Morgan Storey
Peter Cartledge remains the Public Officer

On behalf of Sydney Atheists, we congratulate the new committee and thank all those who attended the AGM.

The new committee will work towards further building Sydney Atheists beyond the stellar growth that has been achieved in 2013.

Monday 25 November 2013

Sydney Atheists in the Sydney Morning Herald

Today, the Sydney Morning Herald reflects on a recently released Australian Social Trends report noting the rise of irreligion in Australia. Georgina Mitchell writes:
As a social trends report by the Bureau of Statistics highlights, Australians are increasingly ditching religious dogma. Just under 4.8 million people, or 22 per cent of the population, said they had ''no religion'' on their census forms two years ago.
It is an accelerating trend. In 1911, Australia was unusual in giving its citizens an option of saying they had no religion on census forms. Then just 10,000 people did so, or 0.4 per cent of the population. 
From 1971 onwards, the ABS notes, those reporting no religion has risen by about 4 percentage points a decade. 
And the non-religious have some interesting things in common. The report shows nearly half of same-sex couples report no religion, more than twice the rate of the overall population. Women aged over 15 are less likely to have children if they have no religion and are half as likely to have four or more children as the religious. 
And 31 per cent of those with a postgraduate degree reported no religion, compared with one in five people with a high school education. Those who studied creative arts and sciences at university were most likely to have no religion. 
Sydney Atheists president Steve Marton said younger people became involved in atheism as greater access to information allowed them to question views. 
''Young people today aren't as brainwashed as their forebears; they can look past the religious text and dogma and look on the internet,'' he said. 
''Social media plays a big part. They don't have to be closet disbelievers any more.''
The Bureau of Statistics' Australian Social Trends report notes that males are more likely than females:

 Percentage of people reporting no religion(b) by sex,1971 - 2011 (ABS)

This trend is less pronounced in people under 22:
Percentage of young people reporting no religion, by age and sex, 2011 (ABS)

Among those with no religion under 35, school leavers are as well represented as those with tertiary qualifications, showing the upsurge of awareness of atheism in the general community.

A decreasing number of parents are willing to identify their children as their partner's religion

The ABS notes that "Reporting a religious affiliation is not the same as actively participating in religious activities. In the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS), 15% of men and 22% of women aged 18 years and over said they had actively participated in a religious or spiritual group."

Over 70% of Australian marriage ceremonies are performed by civil celebrants.
Number of marriages by type of celebrant, 1991-2011 (ABS)

The number of people choosing not to answer the question remains similar to 1933 levels, when no religion was not an option (9% vs 13%)

Percentage of people(a) reporting no religion(b) or providing no response to the census question on religion, 1901-2011 (ABS)
The ABS notes:
The 'no religion' response does not tell the whole story, however. It is not possible to work out the actual number of Australians with no religion, as there are people who may or may not be religious who choose not to answer the question, or give an indefinite answer. 
In 1911, the responses of 2% of Australians (83,000 people) were classified as 'objected to state'. In 2011, 'not stated' responses accounted for 9% of the population (1.8 million people).
Reasons for not answering the question may include a belief that religion is a private matter, or because people are answering for someone else and do not know their religious affiliation. 
Those filling out Census forms for older people in nursing homes, for example, may choose the 'not stated' response if the person is not able to communicate ('not stated' responses rise steeply from 8% of people aged 75 to 79 years to 16% of people aged 95 years and over). 
Some people may not answer solely because the question is voluntary. In 1933, when the question was explicitly stated to be so, there was a six fold increase in people choosing not to answer, from less than 2% in 1921 to 13% - the highest proportion of such responses to date.

Jedi will never be classified as a religion, and Sydney Atheists joins with the Atheist Foundation of Australia to encourage people that aren't religious to mark "No Religion" on the census.

The ABS report concludes that "As the rising trend of reporting no religion is driven by younger people, and the tendency is for religious affiliation to remain stable in cohorts, it is possible that we will see Australia become increasingly more secular in the future."

Sydney Atheists believe in a secular and prosperous Australia, and will be here every step of the way.

Sunday 10 November 2013

This December we will have an unusual debate in place of our usual talk:

My former religion is more ridiculous than yours!!!

In this debate a former Jew, Christian and Muslim will attempt to prove that their previous religion is more ridiculous than the others. A god (of sorts) will be the moderator, you be the judge!
The evening will combine our last talk with our last social evening as the finale for 2013. 
Join us for this special night of fun, frivolity and irreverence. If you feel inclined, you might even dress in some religious or heathen attire.
We would ask that you be accurate with your RSVP as we expect that this event will be fully subscribed.

Please RSVP at
We do request at a minimum a couple dollar donation to cover the cost of the hall hire and any other costs we incur, we are not for profit and 100% of funds will go to operating the group. Also, as the hotel is doing us a very good deal for the space, we hope that you will avail yourself of some of the fine food and beverage that they offer.
The dinner and talks will both be at the one venue, First Floor Strattons Hotel, 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney.
Dinner will be available from 6.00pm whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm.
You will be able to eat before or during the talks. We will also have a 15 minute intermission. This venue affords us much in the way of social possibilities as well as the talks. Please note that catering will not be available after 8.30pm. Meals are available from $10.00.
Location: 249 Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW 
The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk. Cheap parking is available at 730 George Street, $9 flat rate 6 mins from the meetup hotel. If you come in the door to the furthest right of the Pub on Castlereagh Street, then up the stairs to the right, and all the way to the top, there is a large room to the left.
Once a month the Meetup meets for a topical discussion with a special guest/s. Special guests in the past have been members of the meetup, who spoke on a topic of their choice, or experts from outside, speaking on a topic of their expertise. If you wish to speak, or know somebody who would like to speak to us, please contact Steve 0450 123 211 or Morgan 0451 035 088. Slots are either 1 hour or part there of to make up the hour.
 We usually attempt to record these talks and put them up on our youtube channel pending time for editing and final speakers' approval. Filming is also dependent on copyright issues.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Our Friday night talk by Orie Gilad was a marvelous success. On behalf of all our attendees, I'd like to say a big thank you to Orie for her informative and entertaining presentation. As a first, we had more attendees than acceptances.

We hope that all our newcomers had a great evening.

Steve Marton

Sunday 13 October 2013

The Sydney Atheists Monthly Talk

The Sydney Atheists Monthly Talk

  • Friday, November 8, 2013
    6:00 PM
  • 249 Castlereagh Street, 2000, Sydney
  • This Months talk will be:
    Dr Orie Gilad "Evolution through Natural Selection"
    Orie is a Conservation Ecologist who has spent over 15 years working on wildlife related projects with an ecosystem approach.  Orie received her Doctorate degree in Zoology from Texas A&M University where she remained as a lecturer while founding Balanced Ecology Inc., a non-profit organization focusing on wildlife conservation through research and public education.  Her projects involved Mountain Lions, Bighorn Sheep, Arabian Oryx and Giant Pandas as well as other species.
    She continued as a Medical Zoologist with the US Army, studying the environmental factors contributing to zoonotic diseases and developing methods to minimize and prevent spread and transmission. 
    Orie joined the University of Sydney in 2012 and is pursuing a multi-scale system approach that blends theory with practice.  Projects include detecting missing links in disease paths of vector borne diseases, identifying the threshold of soil ecosystem resiliency, environmental factors affecting wildlife populations, and investigating the impact of micro-climate changes on emerging and re-emerging diseases.   

    Charles Darwin defined evolution as “descent with modification”.  This presentation will explain the adaptations of organisms to their environment through the process of natural selection and explain the unity and diversity of life.  It will also discuss some of the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence supporting this concept.  Evolution of population and the origin of species may also be visited, time permitting.
    Please note that the dinner and talks will both be at the one venue, First Floor Strattons Hotel, 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney.
    We do request at a minimum a couple dollar donation to cover the cost of the hall hire and any other costs we incur, we are not for profit and 100% of funds will go to operating the group. Also, as the hotel is doing us a very good deal for the space, we hope that you will avail yourself of some of the fine food and drink that they offer.

    Dinner will be available from 6.00pm whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm.
    You will be able to eat before or during the talks. We will also have a 15 minute intermission. This venue affords us much in the way of social possibilities as well as the talks. Please note that catering will not be available after 8.30pm. Meals are available from $10.00.
    Location: 249 Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW
    The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk. Cheap parking is available at 730 George Street, $9 flat rate 6 mins from the meetup hotel. If you come in the door to the furthest right of the Pub on Castlereagh Street, then up the stairs to the right, and all the way to the top, there is a large room to the left.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Resignation and Appointments

On behalf of the Committee of Sydney Atheists, I would like to make three announcements:

1)  Murray Love has resigned as Treasurer of Sydney Atheists Incorporated. Murray has been the Treasurer for almost two years. He has also been an active committee member. Murray has been instrumental in organising the Penrith Meetups and has been a prolific attendee at many Sydney Atheist functions. We thank Murray for all of his input and wish him well.

2)  We have offered the position of Treasurer to Semih Ilhan, which Semih has accepted.

3)  We have offered the position of Assistant Treasurer / Secretary to Mike Beecham, a position that Mike has accepted.

Many will remember Semih for his talk on "From Islam to disbelief". Semih and Mike have been frequent attendees at our social and talk evenings. They will add vibrancy to Sydney Atheists and work toward our common goals. It is with great pleasure that we welcome these two gentlemen to the committee as we look to drive membership and attendance to ever greater heights. The committee seeks to grow Sydney Atheists so that we can have a greater impact in the broader community.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

October Monthly talk

The next monthly talk will be on October the 11th at the Strattons.

Raphael Lataster - 'There Was No Jesus, There Is No God', Jesus mythicism, Bayesian reasoning and William Lane Craig

Religious Studies scholar, Raphael Lataster (University of Sydney), discusses various issues relating to his recently released book, ‘There Was No Jesus There Is No God’, including: - What the book is actually about - Why he wrote it - The controversy of Jesus mythicism and the thesis that formed the basis of the book - His ongoing research - Why Bayesian reasoning is awesome - Finally, a brief and humourless romp through the arguments of William Lane Craig. There will be plenty of time for questions, and some jocularity.

Copies of his book will be available for $10, and signing will be available.

Murray Love - 21st Century Humanism
Committee member of the Humanist Society of NSW, Murray Love, will talk on the value of Humanism in the 21st Century. In the last century, the label of Humanist (or Secular Humanist) seemed appropriate, but many now shed it for the clear and simple label of Atheist. Yet famous Atheists like Dawkins and Grayling and Tim Minchin retain links to the Humanist movement, and the term Humanism remains valuable for a range of lifestyle issues, social and environmental concerns, and philosophical groundings. Murray will offer ideas on how Atheists might benefit from exploring Humanism as a customisable life-stance and community of people and ideas for those going beyond 'a lack of belief in a god'.

The dinner and talks are both on the First Floor of Strattons Hotel, 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney.
Dinner will be available from 6.00pm to 8.30pm whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm
The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk. Cheap parking is available at 730 George Street, $9 flat rate 6 mins from the meetup hotel.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Debate - Did God create man, or did man create God?

The  Muslim Students Association and the Islamic Awareness Forum of NSW debated Sydney atheists on the 23rd of August 2013 at UNSW.
For the affirmative; Uthman Badar, Faraz
For the negative; Steve Marton, Aleks Zablotskii
Steve's book is available here;

This is the first part of the debate, the second is in the description of the first on youtube.

Tuesday 17 September 2013


Carolynn Valbuenna has resigned from the position of Public Relations Officer due to other commitments. We thank Carolynn for her contributions to the committee of Sydney Atheists and to the social aspects of Sydney Atheists. She will be missed.

As a result of Carolynn's departure, there has been a shift in positions on the committee. Nick Sewell has become the new secretary, whilst Thomas Kraemer has replaced Carolynn in the position of Public Relations Officer. On behalf of everyone at Sydney Atheists we welcome and congratulate Nick and Thomas in these new roles and wish them well in their endeavours in building Sydney Atheists to become an even more successful organisation.

Thursday 5 September 2013


Lots of new videos, and some old ones that were found have been uploaded to the Sydney atheists youtube page, click on the youtube button over there, on the right and subscribe as there are more of our previous talks coming.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Muslim paedophilia Slur

Atheism a road to paedophilia?
Yep, that is the bow that was drawn at a recent debate between Sydney atheists and Sydney's Muslim students association. The debaters on our side as I am sure I would have been where flabbergasted by this, or simply missed it amongst the barrage of other non-sequiturs and logical fallacies.

Let’s get to the crux of it. Their argument is that basically, atheists have no moral arbitrator so thus anything is eventually acceptable. Why they didn't use some less heinous crime is beyond me, may be a psychologist can weigh in on why they would deem this as an action they would take if they felt there was no divine policemen to keep them in check.
OK so if there is no moral enforcer, no God(s) who can define moral law then moral law needs to be defined as we go along. This comes back to Euthyphros dilemma; Is something good because God deems it so, or does God do things that are only good. If you pick the first then God could arbitrarily change the rules, could all of a sudden decide that killing your own child is morally good... don't laugh he did this to Abraham, Jephthah, the 42 children that God kills with bears and his own son, if you believe the bible.
If you take the second option, then Morality is over and above God, and God is not omnipotent (all powerful) and omnibenevolent (all good) as he is deemed by some, all-be-it not by some Muslims.

So you either are worshipping a being that deems murder is good on its whim, or cannot change morality and thus morality arises independently of this being.

Let’s look where the atheist view gets us, independently arisen morality.
I will state first up I believe that morality is objective, meaning that the same morality doesn't necessarily hold for all situations. For example I think murder is abhorrent and wrong... but if I was thrust into combat I would fight and kill to save me and my families lives.
I think rape is wrong (actually above murder, but that is personal disgust), but can see that the Angler fish in which the male effectively rapes the female as the only means of perpetuating their species is not morally as wrong as letting the species die out.
I think you get the picture, morality in life is a grey area, you need to think about things a bit and not be moraly lazy, besides who wouldn't steal a loaf of bread to feed their starving family.

Society, to work in cohesion develops rules however. We don't need to rape to survive as a species, so it is outlawed, leniency is shown the thief doing so out of necessity, killing in self-defence is also shown leniency. These rules have been built up over time in secular legal systems all over the world, independently of each other, and often times independently of religion.

Now to the argument of paedophilia. Most societies deem sex between consenting individuals as OK, if there is no consent then it is simply rape.
I believe every country has an age of consent, and this is deemed by their legal institution as the age at which a child can make possible life changing decisions, such as moving out on their own, or consenting to sexual intercourse, this varies country to country which is a little odd, but interestingly averages around 16 years of age.
This makes sense as children are naive, they are overly trusting and they are easily influenced/ picking an age that allows for mental maturation in a majority of children, allows for these decisions to be made with greater foresight. If they can't consent then it is against their will and thus rape, where paedophilia is just rape of a minor.
So for our society paedophilia is rightly outlawed.

But let’s create a hypothetical world, one where a disease causes all males of the intelligent species inhabiting this world to be sterile shortly after they first become sterile, long before mental maturation, lets also say IVF for whatever reason is not discovered or doesn't work.
A law maybe passed that enforces these young boys to continue the species is it wrong, in our eyes, yes. In this species eyes they wouldn't exist without it.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Friday September 13 talks will be:
First talk;
Professor George Paxinos
Professor Paxinos is a NHMRC Australia Fellow, NeuRAVisiting/Conjoint Professor of Psychology and Medical Sciences at the UNSW. His main areas of research and interest involve the structure of the brain of humans and experimental animals.
Humans: Without a soul, without free will and with leftovers of a reptilian brain
Synopsis;Professor Paxinos will question the soul in philosophical, psychological and neurological terms. He will also discuss the gains to be made from the acceptance that there is no free will. Finally he will question the intellect that fails to acknowledge the CO2 sarcophagus.
Second talk;
Peter Furness
Peter has had considerable community involvement over many years. He was a councillor on South Sydney City Council, serving as deputy mayor for three years. In 2004 Peter co-founded Australian Marriage Equality and was its National Convenor for a number of years. 
Secular Charities
Peter is seeking to establish an atheist/humanist benevolent organisation. Such organisations already exist in the UK and the US but not necessarily in Australia. 
Please note that the dinner and talks will both be at the one venue, First Floor Strattons Hotel, 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney.
Dinner will be available from 6.00pm whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm.
You will be able to eat before or during the talks. We will also have a 15 minute intermission. This venue affords us much in the way of social possibilities as well as the talks. Please note that catering will not be available after 8.30pm. Meals are available from $10.00.

Location: 249 Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW
The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk. Cheap parking is available at 730 George Street, $9 flat rate 6 mins from the meetup hotel.

Friday 9th August

We thank Professor Peter Baume and Dr Stephen Mutch and all who attended for making our Friday night talks such a brilliant success. Both of our speakers kept the audience enthralled by their presentations. Virtually every seat in the room was taken, with another record attendance. The attendance at Sydney Atheists lectures is now double what was achieved in 2012.
Stay tuned for a very busy August by checking out forthcoming events. Please note however, that Sydney Atheists are not necessarily the hosts of them all.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Did God create man or did Man create god?

Friday 23rd of August

At Theatre 7 at the University of NSW Central Lecture Block (CLB7)

On Friday the 23rd of August Sydney Atheists will debate the Muslim Students Association and the Islamic Awareness Forum of NSW at the University of NSW

Their side will be represented by:

Uthman Badar. Uthman is a well known speaker, writer and activist within the Muslim community. A student of the Islamic sciences as well as a current candidate for a PhD in Economics, Uthman is actively involved in public discourse surrounding religion, politics and social affairs. He regularly lectures at universities and debates within the fields of religious and theistic apologetics.

Faraz. Faraz is an activist within Sydney's Muslim youth community, and has been actively involved with campus activism for several years. A graduate of combined Economics and Law, Faraz is an economics consultant and a student of religious apologetics, including theist/atheist and inter-religious discourse. He has a keen interest in the Quranic sciences and has also debated at the state and other representative levels.

Sydney Atheists will be represented by:

Steve Marton. Steve is the President of Sydney Atheists, and an event organiser. Steve has a particular interest in the Abrahamic religions . He is the author of "The Man who created God".

Aleks Zablotskii: Aleks is a speaker for Sydney Atheists, researcher and amateur essayist; focused primarily on the subjects of religiosity and totalitarianism.

The debate will be: Did God create man or did Man create god?

The moderator for the evening will be Dr Andrew Morrison SC. Andrew is a barrister (Senior Counsel) at Wardell Chambers in Sydney. He specialises in alternative dispute resolution and medical/professional negligence cases. He holds a PhD and has published various papers, as well as holding membership of various institutes. Andrew has served as both a Supreme and District Court Arbitrator as well as an acting judge.

Please RSVP on our website:
If subsequently you find that you are unable to attend, please update your RSVP so that others have the opportunity to attend.

Attendees will be able to assemble from 6.15 and we ask that everyone is seated by 6.45. Seating will be determined on the basis of arrival time. The debate will commence between 6.45 and 7.00pm and end between 9.30 and 10.00pm.

 There will not be a fee or donation required at this event.

Thursday 18 July 2013

  Friday 9th of August Monthly talks

First floor Strattons Hotel 249 Castlereagh Street, 2000, Sydney

Dinner from 6.00pm with talks beginning at 7.00pm

Call Morgan on 0451 035 088 or Steve on 0450 123 211 if you have any questions
We do request at a minimum a couple dollar donation to cover any other costs we incur, we are not for profit and 100% of funds will go to operating the group.
First talk;
Professor Peter Baume - From Judaism to Disbelief
Professor Peter Baume is a former senator. One of his final acts as a senator was to cross the floor of parliament to vote in favour of a bill giving equal employment opportunity in some government-owned bodies. More recently Peter has been Professor of Community Medicine at the UNSW, chancellor of ANU. Since 2000, he has been an honorary research associate with the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW. He has also been Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Deputy Chair of the Australian National Council on AIDS and Foundation Chair of the Australian Sports Anti Doping Agency.
How a tsunami can affect belief.
Second talk;
Dr Stephen Mutch  - Political Secularism in Australia.
- Cults and religion
Dr Stephen Mutch is a former member of both the NSW State and Federal parliaments. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University.
This talk will focus on the status and effectiveness of secularist forces in Australia. Time permitting Stephen will also discuss cults and religion from the perspective of policy frameworks for the regulation of religious and quasi-religious groups.
Please note that the dinner and talks will both be at the one venue, First Floor Strattons Hotel, 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney.
Dinner will be available from 6.00pm whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm.
You will be able to eat before or during the talks. We will also have a 15 minute intermission. This venue affords us much in the way of social possibilities as well as the talks. Please note that catering will not be available after 8.30pm. Meals are available from $10.00.
Location: 249 Castlereagh St, Sydney NSW 2000
The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Friday the 12th of July will be a well remembered date. We moved to the Strattons Hotel, a venue that proved a great success, with some 65 attendees at our talks. This venue has enhanced the experience and social intercourse of Sydney Atheists. It has provided us the opportunity of having a larger audience in more comfortable surroundings.

On behalf of all of our attendees I would like to thank Kuhen and Vinay very much for two excellent and intriguing talks that provoked many questions, much discussion and even some controversy.

Saturday 29 June 2013

ATTENTION Change of venue and time


   Change of venue and time

 Friday, July 12  Monthly talks

 Dinner will be available from 6.00pm 

 whilst the talks will begin at 7.00pm

         Dinner and the talks will be at

 Strattons Hotel 249 Castlereagh Street Sydney
Call Morgan 0451 035 088 or Steve 0450 123 211 if required

First talk; Kuhen

"From Hinduism to disbelief"
Kuhen will discuss his journey from Hinduism to disbelief as a stranger in a strange land including:
1. On the origin of Hinduism
2. A Hindu by birth
3. A Humanist by belief

Second talk; Vinay
"Objectivism for everyday living"

What is Objectivism, what does it mean personally and in political life? What are the benefits and hazards of taking everything Rand (the founder of Objectivism) said literally?

and RSVP for the evening at:

Location:   Location:
The nearest station is Museum, whilst Town Hall Station is a 5 to 10 minute walk.

We do request at a minimum a couple dollar donation to cover the cost of the hall hire and any other costs we incur. We are not for profit and 100% of funds will go to operating the group.

Saturday 15 June 2013

"From Islam to disbelief"

Oh what a night! The room was packed like never before. The anticipation was palpable. In the end, the evening didn't want to stop.

It was sad that one of our speakers had to pull out because the Islamic authorities of her birth country had her under surveillance for being involved with atheists.

That aside, our four speakers from Lebanese, Bangladeshi, Shiite and Turkish backgrounds informed and entertained us in a most unique way. The audience was captivated with their stories and experiences coming out of Islam to the enlightenment that atheism brings.

On behalf of their fellow thinkers at Sydney Atheists, I would like to thank and congratulate Fadi, Hossain, Ax and Semih for their talks last night.

Our next talk "From Hinduism to disbelief" will take place on Friday the 12th of July

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Debate; Does God exist?

In case you missed the debate, here is the video on our channel, un-edited;

Thanks go to the Joseph, Caroline and Andrew (SDA Church) for organising and running this excellent event.

Let us know how we did in the comments here or on youtube. There is likely more to come in the debate department, with at least two on the immediate horizon, stay tuned.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Why Evolution is True

Answering Creation Ministries’s Questions

Creation Ministries International run a “Question Evolution” campaign, handing out a pamphlet that asks 15 supposedly “unanswerable” questions about evolution. This article by Morgan Storey, seeks to answer all their questions, with references to find more information. You will have to do some research on your own, that is what science is about: doing the leg work to find out for yourself, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter or in a pretty leather bound book.

15 questions for “Evolutionists” answered.

Firstly we are not evolutionists; there are people who accept evolution and those that reject it. It would be like saying gravityists or germists.

1. How did life originate?

A good question to be sure, but not actually an answer for the theory of evolution. As answering how the stars accreted isn’t an answer for the theory of gravity.
But to answer this, the current field that studies this is a field somewhere between chemistry and biology called abiogenesis. It studies how biological chemicals can form in different environments. Famous experiments such as the Miller-Urey experiment have shown that biological chemicals can form. More recent experiments of this nature have shown more complex biological chemicals forming such as proteins and long chain acid molecules similar to the precursor to DNA, RNA.

There is no definitive answer for how life originated on earth, it is very difficult for this kind of life to have survived till now for us to study it and primitive life would more than likely have not left fossils and even if they did due to subduction these fossils would no longer be accessible, or may have been destroyed by as the earth they were embedded in subducted back into the magma of the mantle.

2. How did the DNA code originate?

Again not the area of evolution. Evolution works via Natural selection on existing life, or even on the precursor which is not considered alive RNA. It is likely that DNA originated from RNA as DNA is simply a more stable double-helix over RNA’s single. But we don’t know, RNA/DNA is not fossilized as it decays too quickly, and it is unlikely that any primitive DNA/RNA transition will be found. There have been recent experiments that have shown XNA an even more stable triple-helix that never evolved on earth from the life we have today. The reason is very interesting. Although XNA is less prone to copying errors and mutations it would also take a lot longer to evolve in changes, so it sacrifices its ability to change for stability. Obviously the balance was struck with DNA or XNA simply never formed.

Long answer short, we don’t know. That doesn’t mean it can’t be one of our simply answers rather than adding a complexity of a designer.
See also: Xeno Nucleic Acid.

3. How could mutations-accidental copying mistakes create the huge volumes of information in the DNA of living things?

This is a little misleading, DNA isn’t a code. It is a strand of molecules; it is only given a code so that we humans can understand it. It is translated by other chemical reactions in the cells that they occupy. But the mutations caused during life and passed on as well as the copying mistakes can add information. As any computer scientists knows if you copy multiple files in the wrong way you can combine them together going from 2 files to one much larger one. This has happened in biological DNA, human’s ancestors the old world apes have one more pair of chromosomes over humans, this was not understood for a long time and then it was found. The ends of chromosomes have these things called telomeres that stop the copying process when a strand is being duplicated; they mark the end of the strand. These have been found in the middle of a pair of human chromosomes, bearing the same markers as two pair in our nearest cousins the chimps. The chromosome pair at some stage fused too form one instead of two. Giving more DNA to the single chromosome and allowing for natural selection to work on a bigger selection of traits.

Not all traits from mutations are negative. There have been people found who have a mutation that makes them immune to the HIV virus, others in a small town in Italy that metabolise cholesterol so well that they never have a heart attack from their cholesterol rich diets.

Others such as colour blindness and schizophrenia are being investigated for advantages regardless of the negatives, e.g. colour blind individuals can pick out camouflaged animals where others can’t.

See also: New Scientist “Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab”

4. Why is natural selection taught as if it explains the origins and diversity of life?

It does explain the origin of our lives and the diversity of life we see around us. There is evidence in many species of its evolution; we have fossil evolutionary evidence for horses, wales, and of course humans. If you have a better hypothesis that explains all the current evidence and doesn’t add any extra complicated variables then propose it and it will be tested by other scientists, they will either find evidence for it, or none. If evidence cannot be found then it is un-falsifiable and simply bad science.

5. How did the biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence originate?

You go from very simply worded questions to one like this, which seems like you want to throw people off your scent. But regardless, you are describing irreducible complexity inside cells. Which is something that is being actively studied, however evolution has had billions of years to build all of this up we have had only a couple hundred years. So we don’t know exactly, some of these enzymes and proteins may have evolved simultaneously from earlier simpler proteins and enzymes, in earlier and more primitive cells. This is what we see in extremophiles, but more study is required. Would you abandon your faith if it were discovered how these proteins and enzymes evolved, if not then you can’t use this argument.

References: Researchers unveil first artificial enzyme created by evolution in a test tube

6. Living things look like they were designed, how do evolutionists know they were not designed?

Ok so things I guess could look designed… by a very bad designer. The heart in a human has too few arteries to supply it with enough blood for it be as efficient as it should be for a land animal; it is fine for marine animals. Similar for the placement of spine along the back for an upright walker and the lack of extra sets of teeth for an animal such as us that lives so long, not to mention the laryngeal nerve that I am sure you have heard of, that runs from brain to voice box to allow all animals to control its muscles, except it makes a detour below the heart which is a lot longer than needed for humans, but think about the poor Giraffes where the detour is 18feet.

The universe is really not designed for us, most of it is deadly to us, too close to a star, neutron star, black hole, or galactic core and you will die, the blackness of space at a whopping 2.7Kelvin or -270.45 degrees Celsius (-454.81F) not to mention trillions of wandering asteroids and planets the size of Jupiter ready to wipe us out.

But even if all these design flaws didn’t exist then so what, it looks designed. Maybe we design things that look like nature because we are a part of it; we can’t design anything to not look like nature as we have no experience with things that aren’t part of nature.

7. How did multi-cellular life originate?

This is pretty simple. This is like saying how did humans and other animals work out that living and working together in packs, heards or tribes increased our chances for survival. We already see bacterial colonies that are colonies of lots of individual cells of bacteria working and living together, why not pool resources and specialise some bacteria to take in food and others to expel waste?

8. How did sex originate?

Interestingly we don’t know exactly, it conveyed an advantage against parasites and for survival so it was selected for, meaning passed on. Again this probably originated early on in life’s development, as some forms of bacteria don’t procreate asexually, some procreate with DNA from another party, some are not just binary male and female, but multi-sexed, having up to 7 different sexes. But larger than bacterially we are pretty much limited to the binary male and female. Though some switch such as certain fish and amphibians and for example the whip tail lizard and some lie along the gender path such as humans who can be born with both male and female genitalia, although a lot of these are non-functional there have been instances of functioning intersex humans.

The point is binary sexuality is a myth that has been perpetuated due to its prevalence not its truth. Many animals can reproduce sexually and asexually. Different genders of more than one do show better diversity and thus higher likelihood of passing on successful mutations such as the aforementioned HIV and cholesterol advantages. But obviously higher than two can be difficult to organise for the animals affected so it wasn’t as successful.

9. Why are the expected countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

This is a double whammy misconception; Every fossil ever found is a link between older and newer forms, so every fossil is a transitional fossil, your bones according to evolutionary theory are a transitional fossil of your father to your child. If you don’t have kids then you are an evolutionary dead end. It happens with surnames as it happened with our ancestors such as homo neanderthalis (to some extent, they did interbreed with us a little too).
Many transitional forms have been found that closed parts of the fossil record that were previously accused of having “gaps”.

In fact, in the century-and-a-half since then, we’ve found millions of evolutionary intermediaries in the fossil record, much more than Darwin said he could reasonably hope for. The transitional fossils that have been found (such as Tiktaalik, Ichthyostega, Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Archaeopteryx, Microraptor, etc) provide clear evidence of transitions, in this case from water to land and from land to flight. There are three different types of transitional forms and we have ample examples of each. But creationists still insist that we’ve never found a single one, because what they usually ask us to present are impossible parodies which evolution would neither produce nor permit (such as the Crocoduck).

Evolution doesn’t dictate we would find fossils at all, that is geology. Fossilization is a very rare process so the fact we have any fossils at all is amazing. The missing fossils you talk of may always be missing, it doesn’t discredit the theory, it just means we realise our limitations of finding fossils at other records such as genetic evidence.

You say all the missing links are imagined, but that is just plain wrong you can go to your local natural history museum and see replicas of the skulls and sometimes entire skeletons of our ancestors. We have found hundreds of examples of some of these ancestors and the documentation and photographic evidence is in biological textbooks, physical evidence is available at some of the luckier natural history museums and research facilities. As like other fossils they are rare and expensive.

10. How do “living Fossils” remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years if evolution has changed worms into humans in the same time frame?

In the same time frame it turned the same worms into lions and elephants and whales and fish. These ”living fossils” are called that as at least their initial outward appearance appears not to have changed, but new evidence suggests they have. Science changes it views based on what is observed, it is not afraid to admit it is wrong. The most famous “living fossil” the coelacanths is a fish that has found a very good niche so has had little selective pressure to change greatly from it hundred million year old ancestor, but it has changed according to recent research. Incidentally genetically its common ancestor with earth worms is the same as humans 782.7 million years ago roughly. So this and other “living fossils” simply have found a niche and a stable spot in the food change where any mutation that is beneficial to a changed environment will not help them so it doesn’t bread true.


11. How did blind chemistry create mind/intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Blind chemistry didn’t. Chemistry was probably the start of the precursor to life, but after that natural selection and evolution took over. It evolved in varying traits that where advantageous, such as communally living bacteria, then communally living animals such as schools of fish, then fish that where more cunning may have survived to pass on their DNA and been selected for, and intelligence built. This is why things like octopus can remember how to open jars as they can remember how to hide in certain types of coral and open certain types of shells to get to the tasty molluscs inside.

Morality and altruism is the realm of evolutionary psychologists, a relatively new field that has proposed various methods to answer how these features of our intelligence are advantageous in a community such as the ones humans and other animals form. The same reason piranha do not attack each other during a frenzy is the same reason we will assist our neighbour.
Life is not meaningless; it has whatever meaning you deign to it. If you give your life meaning through charity and altruism then society deems you a good person, if you give it through theft and crime society will punish you through the secular law system. The legal system has been built up by people not wanting others to treat them in such a manner, similar to the Christian golden rule but modified to allow for outliers such as those that may enjoy giving or receiving pain. The better version of the golden rule is “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”.

So although some parts of morality and altruism are evolved others are learnt and passed down from parent to child. There are tribes that believe it is perfectly fine to kill unruly children and that anyone over 30 is not a member of the tribe. This does lead to a kind of moral relativism, but most ethicists will agree that what is moral is what causes the least amount of harm, and not caring for your young or elderly does cause harm to them, whereas caring for them causes in most circumstances almost no harm.
Morals are relative; it is not ok to kill… unless the person you are killing is threatening you or a loved one’s life. It is not ok to steal… unless if you don’t you or a loved one will die. It is not ok to lie… unless if you do so others will be harmed as I am sure a German harbouring Jews in WW2 would have realised.


12. Why is this evolutionary “just-so” story telling tolerated?

This is really a loaded question, these aren’t just-so stories they are different stories that describe the entirety of our species. Kind of like the 3 blind-men describing an elephant, one grabs the trunk and describes it is a powerful type of snake, another feels the leg and describes a tree, another feels the feathery tale and describes a bird, all are wrong by themselves, but together their picture is of an elephant.

The stories talked about here are just-so as there is a huge pool of humans that these DNA sequences play out. Even in recorded history there were millions of us on the planet, this diversity is what has made us strong as a species. Some of us have blue eyes and thus better vision during the night and overcast winters, others have brown eyes with better vision during the day, this diversity and communal living means we are more likely to survive as a species as a single disease can’t come through a wipe us out, and different people can have different specialties.

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

The quote used here is what is called quote mining; Dr Kirschner is actually complaining here that there is little interdisciplinary work with other biologists. Biologists need a grounding in evolution to truly understand and model every experiment they perform.

Norman Borlaug in 1970 was awarded the Nobel Prize for his use of evolutionary theory to create crops that have so far saved possibly billions of lives.

Every year the flu shot that is given out is due to the use of evolutionary theory to determine how influenza strains will change in the coming year, the same is done for new strains of existing vaccinated diseases.
References: *

14. Science involves experimenting to figure out how things work; how they operate. Why is evolution, a theory about HISTORY, taught as if it is the same as OPERATIONAL science?

Firstly I don’t think theory means what you think it means. In science when you pluck an idea out of the air you have a hypothesis, not a theory. When your hypothesis is able to fail a test as in it is falsifiable and you have a lot of evidence backing a hypothesis and you have had your hypothesis tested by others and then you get it test a fair few more times, then and only then can you call it a theory. Looking at the numbers for example for the recently failed faster than light Tau Neutrino hypothesis they did 50,000 tests of their hypothesis before they released a paper for others to attempt to replicate or fail the experiment. They were quickly dismissed as the result couldn’t be replicated and they re-checked and re-checked their equipment and found the flaw… literally a loose wire.

Evolution via natural selection has been tested millions of times; errors have been found and corrected. The theory has changed, you may say due to this selective pressure it has evolved. References:
Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes? 
Sorry but I think I have shown how it explains the evidence, Darwin’s original hypothesis is testable and falsifiable, if no change where found in species, if a rabbit was found in strata of the pre-Cambrian it would be false and we would have to go back to the drawing board. If no way to transmit changes down from mother to child where discovered then it would be false, remembering that genes where not discovered till well after Darwin’s death, he was vindicated there.
Besides it is science, science isn’t about the comfortable or reassuring it is about what is true, even though evolution may not be comforting or reassuring to your beliefs it has shown to be true so far. If a better hypothesis comes along that explains the facts better, is tried tested and wins in the battle between scientific ideas then it will be the latest answer. But all evidence points to that not being much off what evolution via natural selection currently is.

I think teaching creation “theory” in a science class is the same as teaching the aforementioned phrenology in a neurology class, or teaching the stalk theory of birth in a sex-ed class, it is ludicrous and damaging to our children’s future. I know our kids are bright, they can take the idea of evolution and marvel and the grandeur and luck they have to just be here out of the literally billions upon billions of other DNA combinations that could have happened in their place.

Who is responsible for this pamphlet?
Sydney atheists care of have used the design as a commentary on the original under fair use and thus they are responsible.

Although we are atheists, we care about what is true. We would prefer you believed the truth about our origins and believed in a god or gods than believe a falsity such as creation and also believe in God. Literal bible belief carries with it baggage no one wants, and will only lead to fundamentalism of a scale that will lead to war and violence.

We are happy to answer any of your questions via email to or via our Facebook group or page. Alternatively you can contact your local free thought group to see if they can assist you via

Further reading: Rational Wiki, Proof of, Answering the 15 questions