World’s biggest atheist conference

By | March 17, 2010

Richard Dawkins addresses the Global Atheist ConventionRichard Dawkins addresses the Global Atheist Convention Photo: Luis Ascui

Article by Barney Zwartz.

If the meek really do inherit the earth, it won’t be the atheists who turned out in force in Melbourne at the weekend for what organisers believe to be the world’s biggest atheist conference.

It probably does mark in some way a coming of age for the militant atheist movement: they are visible and vocal, energetic and starting to become organised. They are gaining in confidence, which is no bad thing — but, as a couple of brave speakers observed, they would be much more persuasive if a touch less strident, a touch less dogmatic, a touch humble.

We are all enriched when people think through serious issues rather than inheriting parental or cultural assumptions, and when atheists advocate a view of a better society they must be taken seriously. By implication, of course, they must extend the same courtesy.

One lesson the atheist movement is learning, as the convention shows, is that it must broaden its appeal, reaching out to secularists, rationalists and others who share similar goals.

Evaluating the convention depends on what one considers its purpose. If it was to validate hardline atheists to themselves and give them confidence, it was a triumph. If it was to take a mature look at how to advance the cause of secularism, politically and socially, the speakers should probably have spent less time ridiculing religion and more on positive and practical ideas. …

Here’s my advice. If atheists can reduce their contempt for believers and work harder for their positive goal — reducing the footprint of religion in society — they may begin to exert more of the influence they feel they deserve. …

via atheists | convention | secularism | barney | zwartz.

24 thoughts on “World’s biggest atheist conference

  1. Cole

    If atheisms goal is to lessen the impact on religion on society and increase its own, then they’ve already succeeded. In the media you hear way more about rallies against religion than the other way around.

    I think their real goal is to completely destroy all religion, which isn’t actually possible. Only about 16% of the world is nonreligious. Belief in God is written on all our hearts, no one can change that.

    1. Sam

      You say “only 16%,” like it’s not a big number. It’s definitely a minority, Cole, but not in any way insignificant. Think about all the choices of religion out there… even the option of making up one, and 4 out of 25 people //still// wouldn’t bother.

    2. sciencerules

      “Belief in God is written on all our hearts, no one can change that.”

      But can you prove it?

      Religion typically propagates through cultural heredity: “I am (Christian|Muslim|Jew|Hindu|Buddhist) because my parents were the same” and religion is so effective in this manner that it’s frequently assumed as you do that religious belief is the default nature of humanity. But can you prove it?

      If religion were taken out of a society, would the 2nd, 3rd etc generation be destined to invent it? And if they did invent religion afresh, not having access to the ancient holy texts and legends, what would that imply about the truth of that religion?

      1. Cole

        See, there’s the default response. People say we only believe because our parents did and/or because we’ve been “brainwashed” by the church, etc. It is not merely hereditary. I couldn’t prove it in a way a long-time non-believer could understand. It is not because of our parents, it is because of the Holy Spirit.

        Now, if religion were completely wiped from the Earth, which it can’t, what would happen? I suppose someone or some people would pick it up in their thoughts, and somehow the story of creation and human history would be communicated to them. I don’t even fully understand how, but it would. Well, religion couldn’t disappear anyway, so I don’t worry about that.

        1. Xeno Post author

          I’ve seen and have been a part of explanations of evolution and other science topics to people with differing views. I try to give the “why” for things in a way that anyone with functioning human senses and logic could understand. Is it possible for someone to explain to me, in those terms, what this spirit is and why you believe it is anything more than your imagination or your subconscious mind? Thanks.

        2. Cole

          Does the reply button restrict the length of threads, by the way?

          The Holy Spirit is one of three persons in God, according to Christians. The other two are God the Father, who created all things, and God the Son, Jesus Christ, who came to Earth in the form of a man to save us from our sins.

          Why do I believe? Christians may believe for many different reasons. I have my own reasons, two of which I will list here:

          1. The Bible says so. I know the Bible is true because there are sources outside of it that tell the same stories, and talk about the same events. For instance, many outside sources give accounts of Jesus, many texts dating back to the time directly following Jesus’ ascension into heaven give account of Jesus and his ministry. For example, a letter written by a man named Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan regarding the way to prosecute accused Christians. In part of his letter, he wrote about what he had learned about Christians:

          “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

          Because these letters were written only about 127 years after Jesus’ birth, that puts them within a generation of Jesus’ ministry. If someone made the story of Jesus’ life up, it would be pretty hard to convince people it was true only a few years after he was supposed to have died. I don’t think people would be that gullible when they could have been told at least second-hand that it never happened by people who would have heard about it if it did.

          2. Evolution cannot explain human intelligence or spirituality. Scientists can still offer no explanation for why humans have the ability to think deep thoughts, make complex calculations, theorize, imagine, or dream. I’ve seen many articles about scientists trying to find out what part of the brain spirituality and religion originate from. They can’t because it isn’t a physical thing, it’s part of the soul. As part of the same idea, one can observe how God’s word is inscribed on the hearts of all people. If a man steals from another man, the first man says “That isn’t right.” In the animal kingdom, that sense of injustice isn’t there. It’s survival of the fittest; most animals will work only for the benefit of themselves. This shows how humans are different in that they are capable of rational thinking and spirituality, because we have souls. As someone I know once put it, the chance that a million mutations could lead to the man of today has a chance less than “the chance that a tornado could tear through a junk yard and that all the parts could fall together to form a Boeing 747.” Plus, there have been so many scandals in archeology concerning evolution. I can’t remember all of them right now, but if I find them, I will post them, they were in a presentation someone I know made, sorry about that, I WILL get them to you.

          So, that is part of why I believe. Man, I wish I could remember what those cover-ups and problems with the evolutionist archeological backups were, that was supposed to be one of my best points. Well, I remember one of them had to do with a stone age arrowhead found in the skeleton of a bronze age man or something. And another to do with how they discovered a ruin that thy dated to be in a very early period, but used masonry that was supposed to be way ahead of their time. Anyways, I’ll get them to you later, I promise that.

          I hope this helps with your question, I am eager to hear your reply.

        3. Sam

          Cole, I think you’re just choosing what you want to believe. I mean, if a few scandals is all you need to discredit something, then you are way out of line siding with religion. Your entire argument is, “I believe it; that makes it so.”

          I find this to be the real problem between believers and non-believers. It always seems that believers don’t actually know the difference between believing and knowing. The best part about science is that it continually says “I don’t know, but I’m trying to figure it out.” The Bible is not a credible source. It is a collection of stories that had been hanging around for centuries before Jesus’ time. It is absolutely useless in dealing with almost anything of any real importance. There may be valuable lessons in it (or not, depending on whom you ask), but it has no other use. When the flu evolves again next year, only a nut is going to look in his Bible for the cure.

          Personally, I think there probably is a “god” out there, but nothing like the human construction of “Jehovah” or whatever god to which one might devote himself. I suspect it to be a the collective unconscious of the Universe (meaning “everything,” not some separate entity called “The Universe”) with implications we may never realize. The thing is, I only //believe it// (and not very strongly). I can’t prove it. It’s a belief; it remains to be seen if it is a fact.

        4. Cole

          Did you completely ignore what I said? I gave outside sources confirming some events in the Bible. Perhaps “scandals” wasn’t the best word, it’s more like “We found something that doesn’t match our theory, but I still like this theory. Let’s try to find a way to say this isn’t evidence.”

          What else do you want?

          I choose to believe because the alternative doesn’t hold up under all the contrary evidence, along with other reasons.

        5. Sam

          No, you don’t seem to understand anything about science. If a theory can’t be supported, it gets thrown out. If evolution did not have overwhelming support, it would be a discredited theory. Some ideas about evolution get disproved, but the theory itself still stands because more evidence has supported it than not. Consider: the person most Creationists identify with evolution is Charles Darwin; the fact of the matter is that he was dead wrong about some of the details of how it works, but we have found lots of evidence that evolution does happen, whether we understand all the details yet or not. One thing I am sure about is that this planet and everything on it has been changing from the “Beginning.” Everything.

          That’s the science bit.

          Just because a few things mentioned in the Bible actually happened doesn’t mean //everything// in the Bible happened, or that the people even really knew what was happening. Just like Forrest Gump wasn’t drinking a bunch of Dr. Peppers in the White House – even though Dr. Pepper is real, Kennedy was real and the White House is real. In the days before science, a fire in the sky was a fire in the sky, not the Northern Lights, a comet, a large but distant eruption, et cetera. A “worldwide” flood was exactly that; it was not a giant tsunami from a meteor impact. Cole, they didn’t know what was going on. You know, even if they knew what a comet was, they had no way of knowing it could actually hit the Earth.

          Religion is loaded with excuses, science is loaded with mistakes — but also results. An epidemic has NEVER been prayed away. Comets have smacked this planet into mass extinctions several times and they’ll keep on doing it no matter how many people are praying. The tornado that sweeps through one neighborhood but not the other was not pushed aside by some enthusiastic prayers.

          I don’t doubt religion serves a vital purpose in your life. But to try to pass off “beliefs” like they are facts is clumsy and irresponsible. There may be a place in the future world for spirituality, but right now it just seems to get in the way most of the time.

        6. Sam

          “As someone I know once put it, the chance that a million mutations could lead to the man of today has a chance less than “the chance that a tornado could tear through a junk yard and that all the parts could fall together to form a Boeing 747.””

          I meant to tell you, this is a rhetorical fallacy. The reason it is not a logical analogy is because a tornado, a junk yard or its parts, or a Boeing 747 are not living things with a desire to thrive. The comparison just doesn’t work, even if it’s vivid and entertaining. And if it’s not an attempt at an implied comparison, then it’s just extremely non-sequitor. “The chance that a million mutations could lead to the man of today has a chance less than “insert impossible circumstance here.””

          I also think you are underestimating the meanings of “mutations” and “million.” They’re just words, here, but in life they’re really significant.

        7. Cole

          Sam, the comparison works in the way I intend it to. A tornado assembling something and a mutation to a gene being passed on to its offspring both have a chance of happening. Even if they aren’t the same type of object, they still have the same law of logic. Don’t think identifying a small mistake in protocol will make me feel dumb.

          About evolution and its problems, there have been tons of things that people have found that completely contradict the theory, but you don’t hear to much of them because the scientists throw them out, which, by the way, is a complete mockery of the scientific method.

          Here’s something to think about:
          They say oil is formed when over time, organic matter is crushed by tremendous pressure. I believe this is true, it makes sense. So, things keep dieing right? So oil is still being made right? Yes, but very slowly and in little amounts. So explain this: How come we find HUGE amounts of oil, ALL at the SAME GENERAL LEVEL? Sure, we find small bits of oil higher or lower, but tons and tons at one depth. What could have caused all this oil to be made at once? What can provide that much pressure? A world-wide flood. The Bible says there was enough water to cover the highest mountains. Scientists have found evidence showing that under the surface of the Earth, there may have been huge amounts of water. The Bible says during the flood, water poured out from the springs of the Earth. It also says that it rained for forty days and nights. There is also evidence that the whole planet once had a tropical climate, due to us finding fossils in places way to cold for most life to exist. People say there might have been a vapor barrier that kept the planet warm.

          Well, that’s one point. As I said before, I will have more later in the week.

        8. Sam

          I’m out, man. You have no clue what you’re talking about, thanks for elaborating enough to make it apparent.

          My first semester of Geology explained oil, for crying out loud. First semester, Cole. Introductory course. Freshman.

          Good luck.

        9. Xeno Post author

          Thanks for helping me understand why you believe this Cole. What do you you think of this?

          It is likely that the “Christos” or “Anointed” god Pliny’s “Christiani” were following was Serapis himself, the syncretic deity created by the priesthood in the third century BCE. In any case, this god “Christos” was not a man who had been crucified in Judea.

          … In the final analysis there is no evidence that the biblical character called “Jesus Christ” ever existed. As Nicholas Carter concludes in The Christ Myth: “No sculptures, no drawings, no markings in stone, nothing written in his own hand; and no letters, no commentaries, indeed no authentic documents written by his Jewish and Gentile contemporaries, Justice of Tiberius, Philo, Josephus, Seneca, Petronius Arbiter, Pliny the Elder, et al., to lend credence to his historicity.” – truthbeknown

        10. Cole

          “Christ” is in fact, a title. Jesus was “the anointed one” of God. Whereas he term would have been used in context of kings also. This is why people were expecting the Messiah to be an Earthly king.

          As for the parallel with this Egyptian god, it could actually very well be based of of Jewish prophecy about the coming Messiah, if it was developed about 300 BC.

          It might be a week before I can get th real problems with evolution to you, I need permission from my friend to use his points.

        11. Xeno Post author

          Yes, but I’m curious as to your thoughts about the outside evidence you cited seeming not to be about Jesus at all.

          Is there historical evidence?

          Why didn’t the son of god write things down, do you think?

          Why would he not give some proof … Such as telling people the world is round, describing the red spot on Jupiter, or writing E=mc2 on a big rock, or… _____(what else?)___.

          The typical answer is that there is no solid proof on purpose… To test our faith… But that same argument could be used to support any belief… Including the belief that I am the Massiah! There is no evidence in the Bible that a lack of evidence was part of a divine plan for the future generations after Jesus.

          I’ve heard the story of Jesus was contructed by Flavius, a Roman, from older stories and from parts of his own life for the purpose of controling the local people. The story of a peaceful king of the Jews was a way to stop the violence at the time.

          Quite an elaborate hoax if it was one, but not impossible.

          If this Flavian hypothesis is true, I’d expect to find other examples of Roman deception by manipulation of information.

          At this point i honestly don’t know if there was even a historical Jesus. Finding the evidence one way or the other seems like the logical first step in a study of Christianity.

        12. Cole

          It couldn’t have been Flavius, because the Jews knew that a Messiah would come already, it wasn’t a new idea to them. Besides, there are still Jews today. Lots of them. So obviously it wouldn’t have been to effective. But I want to move on the problems with evolution. I might have them by Sunday.

        13. Xeno Post author

          What you are saying doesn’t follow, in fact if the Jews were expecting a savior, Flavius may have played upon that. You don’t have any thoughts on why Jesus didn’t write anything down while he lived? Why no historical accounts from when and where he lived? You can’t just move on with his historical authenticity in question, can you? I can’t seem to. Thanks.

        14. Cole

          He didn’t write anything himself because to write everything down were the Apostles’ jobs.

          Just because the subject didn’t write about his own life doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It’s the same with biographies, not all of them are AUTObiographies.

        15. Xeno Post author

          I guess, but it seems fishy… Why no evidence from when he lived? Exactly when and how were the writings of the Apostles made public for the first time? It makes me want to study that time to see what kinds of things were going on and who was writing about what …

        16. Cole

          Well, different denominations believe different things. I am a member of LCMS, that is, Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. I suggest you go to a local church for a few weeks. Preferably a small one with only about 200 people. That way you can have an opportunity to talk to the Pastor there and ask questions. You can try different denominations too. Anyways, that should clear up some questions you might have.

        17. Xeno Post author

          Well, if they all believe different things, do you think a person would find the actual factual historical origins by talking to just one of them? Would any of them be able to say under what glass case is the supporting archaeological evidence for their particular views?

        18. Cole

          Well, some of them yes, others no. But most different beliefs are theological. I think you should try LCMS. 🙂

      2. Robby Wells

        I did not see the term ‘brainwashed’ used in that response. Wrong to assume that was implied in what was a very thoughtful response. I will leave it at that.

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