Church. It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find a proud cabal of atheists revelling in their lack of faith. But over in England, a pair of comedians have started their very own atheist church, and the idea is quickly gaining traction. It’s no joke either.
The Sunday Assembly, as it’s called, convenes once a month in an old London chapel. It functions in much the same way as any other church, apart from the conspicuous absence of any reference to God, Jesus, Allah or that vengeful intergalactic dictator the scientologist nutjobs believe in. Old Xenu would probably find the lack of faith disturbing.
Hundreds of atheists get to enjoy a fair imitation of the church experience without the looming threat of eternal hell - which, let’s face it, can be a bit of a downer.
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BREAKING NEWS: Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just announced a national Royal Commission into child abuse - beyond just the Catholic Church to look at abuse in all religious organisations and in state care, as well as schools and not-for-profit organisations. She said any instance of child absue is a “vile and evil thing”, and that “there have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes”. She hopes the terms of reference will be finalised by the end of the year after consultation with victims’ groups and the states and territories.
Meanwhile, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and the country’s most powerful Catholic, is acting like a child just when he most needs to man up. In the face of the latest horrific allegations of systemic child abuse and coverups within the Catholic Church he has cried, by turns: ‘it wasn’t me’, and ‘they did it too’.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a senior investigative cop, has revealed new depths in the scandal that has haunted the church for decades. He said “the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church”.
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Premier Barry O’Farrell should not set up a Royal Commission into sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
It should be up to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
This is a boil that needs to be lanced at a Federal level.
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Ubiquitous media commentary on same-sex marriage assumes the moral debate is won, it is inevitable and those opposing it are on the wrong side of history.
Proponents assume no harm can come of it and that mindless bigotry is all that is preventing it becoming law.
So why then is it likely to be resoundingly defeated on the floor of Parliament?
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At the entrance to Sacred Heart Parish Primary School, on the corner of Lane and Sulphide Streets, Broken Hill, stands a life-size statue of Jesus Christ, his arms outstretched in front of him, palms turned upwards in welcome to all His children. Beneath his feet are inscribed the words: “Faith, Truth, Love”.
There is no question that faith and love are here, but the truth is a little harder to come by. The school headmaster, Trevor Rynne, is locked in his office and won’t come out, directing all calls to a Catholic media liaison officer who dwells in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta, over 1,000 kilometers away. She’s not answering calls, either.
Last night, the story broke that the school had denied an education to a local girl on the grounds that her parents were lesbians. Though the parents, a private couple, aren’t talking to the media either, word around town today is that the matter has been resolved, the school offering the child a place in 2012 on the advice of Bishop Kevin Manning, who lords over the Broken Hill Parish and was “absolutely appalled” when the girl’s case was brought to his attention by the media yesterday.
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Thank God census night has come and gone. Thank God literally. I’ve been bored witless by insecure atheists prattling on in the last few weeks and days about questions on religion.
For two things are sure. The census will show that a clear majority of Australians believe in a god. And religion is a clear force for good in our society.
“I wonder how many people still believe in God?” my 55 going on 15 year old DJ and artist brother in law Driller (that’s his real name) wrote on his Facebook page recently. “I certainly don’t. Do you?”
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Politics. Religion. Combine the two and the result can be very nasty indeed. Think about a short list: the Crusades, the Inquisition, New York and the twin towers, the Holocaust, massacre of the Huguenots. It appears that when Church and State are combined into one, horrific things can happen.
Democracies usually separate religion and politics. The 1st Amendment to the American Constitution is absolutely clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This has been interpreted firmly by the Supreme Court, including banning prayers in public schools and state aid to religious schools.
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Brendan Brown writes “Hey God, reveal thyself!” and puts forward his case of “noisy atheism”.
He candidly speaks about the lack of evidence with regard to the divine and light-heartedly takes religion to task for the holes in their belief systems.
It’s a given that no evidence is currently available that supports the existence (or non existence) of god. Yet both atheists and theists continue to taunt each other for evidence.
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Mathematicians have released a study that made for great headlines, including:
(A fairly tenuous link but a mention of religious songs, and I’ll take any excuse to listen to Tim Minchin)
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The floods have caused great devastation and have presented fundamental challenges to our society and lives.
This kind of crisis poses challenges to us on a number of levels – social, physical, emotional and existential.
Tory Shepherd’s article “Digging a hole while trying to find God” outlines the existential challenges provoked by the flood.
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Church leaders faced with a national disaster are struggling to find relevance and avoid hypocrisy. In the wake of the floods, people with religious convictions face an age-old question:
Where was God?
It’s a classic case of cognitive dissonance, where holding two conflicting thoughts causes the brain to implode. God is good, all-knowing and all-powerful and yet bad stuff happens.
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When I was young Catholic, I remember being struck by the contrast between two different approaches to spreading the Gospel – that of the conquistador Hernan Cortes, who did so by the sword and cannon, and that of Francis Xavier, who did so by word and example.
In the lives of the saints, Xavier was a hero to me. It appears the Churches in NSW follow in the steps of Cortes when it comes to evangelical ‘realpolitik’. Not for their state the freedom to choose a faith or citizenship tradition.
They will simply not tolerate neutral ethics classes in competition with Christian scripture classes. The Government must ban alternative perspectives and prohibit parental choice.
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Everyone has the human right to freedom of religion and belief. But often religion and belief can be used as grounds for discrimination and as weapons of division and hate. As a nation, we need to make sure that this does not happen.
Over the next three weeks there are two very different religious conferences being held in Australia. One is the Parliament of the World’s Religions conference in Melbourne, with the theme, ‘Making a world of difference: Hearing each other, Healing the Earth’. The other, this weekend, is the National Conference for all Concerned Christians in Sydney, themed ‘Australia’s Future and Global Jihad’.
Australia is a nation of many religions and beliefs. Some people say we are a Christian nation. More often than not, we are described as a secular nation. But which is true? And why, if at all, does it matter?
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