Will you be making a New Year’s resolution this year? According to researchers at the University of Sydney, half of all Australians will. We’re a pretty predictable bunch when it comes to resolutions.
No doubt this year our resolutions will include avoiding the 18th series of Masterchef, deciding to ignore cryptic, attention-seeking Facebook updates from friends who never supply the second sentence (“Couldn’t have imagined a worse day ever :-(“), spending less time working, and more time with the family (or vice versa).
Or maybe making no more resolutions.
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Plenty of foolish excuses come out of the mouths of pro-gun advocates following tragedies like the recent massacre in Connecticut. However, nothing can hold a candle to Mike Huckabee, former Governor of that bastion of human progress – Arkansas, and a man who once sought the highest office in America.
He even outdid his own previous most ridiculous comment, namely that America would be better off if everyone was “forced at gunpoint to listen to every David Barton message”.
David Barton is an evangelical Christian conservative who argues that the separation of Church and State in the US Constitution is based on a historical porky. I would say he is the David Irving of American Constitutional History; a revisionist on the fringes of history academia, except he isn’t – he has no formal qualifications in either law or history. A stroll on his Wikipedia page tells me that his most recent book won an award as “the least credible history book in print.”
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The Parliamentary Christian Fellowship is a non-party political group of strongly Christian MPs in the federal parliament, who meet unofficially to discuss politics, parliamentary life and faith. Way back in 2004, the convener, Bruce Baird, put its membership at 60 out of a total number of 226 federal MPs.
However, one of his religious colleagues (who did not want to be named) said the figure was more like 75. Talk among non-religious members of the Press Gallery now suggests that there may be as many as 90. This means that the percentage of highly religious MPs in the parliament could easily be around 40 per cent.
The latest National Church Life Survey quotes a figure of 9 per cent of Australians who are regular weekly churchgoers. This could roughly be said to equate with the degree of religiosity evinced by most members of the PCF. This means that these people are over-represented in the parliament by four times that of the general community.
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You hear many complaints nowadays about pesky, outspoken Christians. Across the West, a fashionable attitude has emerged: Beyond the doing of charitable works, and perhaps the soothing of the bereaved at funerals, “religion” should be an entirely private affair.
The so-called New Atheists are vocal advocates of this position. One of them, Michel Onfray, has admitted that his atheism “leaps to life when private belief becomes a public matter”. Onfray hates it “when in the name of a personal mental pathology we organise the world for others”.
Here in Australia, there are many like him. The talented journalist-author Peter FitzSimons is fond of ridiculing sportsmen, like golfer Aaron Baddeley, who publicly give thanks to God. FitzSimons rarely misses a chance to snipe at all “delusional” believers, and, in a recent spray in the Sydney Morning Herald, asserted ludicrously that belief in God “is entirely inimical to educational principles”. (Read Brian Rosner’s spirited reply.)
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Many of us these days prefer to take our Christmas without the Christ or the Mas(s). It’s convenient to keep the name, though – the world’s not quite ready for Sockandjockmas or Drinkingwhitewineinthesunmas.
The hijacking of this pagan/Christian celebration by the irreligious is of concern to many – particularly when the predictable stories start to circulate about childhood institutions ‘banning’ Christmas in favour of the bland and Americanised ‘Happy Holidays’.
Last week Tracey Spicer revealed that a Sydney class had torturously removed all references to Christ from end-of-year Christmas carols. Utterly ridiculous, of course, an unnecessary and probably unrequested bending over.
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In the name of God, why should anyone be force-fed the word of the Lord while they’re shopping?
That swarthy dude with his dulcet tones outside Roger David in Rundle Mall? He can convert me to men’s suits any day. But these sanctimonious sermonisers and their 100-decibel rantings? No way, Jesu.
Myer is My Sunday place of worship, thank you very much, and Adelaide City Council can have My Vote for ridding our secular shopping strip of these screechy preachers who are apparently just as deafening as chain saws, jackhammers and farm tractors.
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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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My sister enrolled her son in primary school this week, and wrote ‘No’ on the enrolment form next to ‘Scripture’, boldly letting her share of the $165 million tax dollars used to fund the National School Chaplaincy Program gurgle godlessly down the plug’ole. Atheists are so wacky.
As nobody had volunteered to run non-religious ethics classes at this particular school, my sister was advised to perhaps just sign her son up for the general scripture classes, because “the little ones get upset when they’re pulled out of class”.
As opposed, of course, to how they feel when they’re being taught about eternal damnation, and the implication that Mummy and Daddy will spend it sipping sulphur in Hell’s hottest nite spot (which isn’t actually Minsky’s, very surprisingly).
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Modern-day defenders of orthodox Christianity – of any religion with a supernatural element – face a host of challenges. Chief among them is the widespread assumption that science and religion are hopelessly incompatible.
In his best-selling book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts that “religion is now completely superseded by science”. It’s a familiar line. Religion, we’re told, is shadowy and value-laden – an exercise in “blind faith”.
And the Bible says that the Earth was made 6,000 years ago in the course of seven days. Anyone who believes that is crazy! These notions are deeply ingrained, but they are fallacious. And they distort the true beliefs of most Christians in Australia.
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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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What is the National School Chaplaincy Program?
The National School Chaplaincy Program was introduced by the Howard Government and expanded by $222 million under Julia Gillard in yesterday’s 2011 federal budget. The program allows for schools to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 per year to employ a religiously affiliated “chaplain” to provide students with emotional and spiritual guidance.
What is “spiritual guidance”?
“Spiritual guidance” is a vague and largely invented “discipline” that only exists to ensure the employment of its teachers.
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Another day, another non-appearance by a religious prophet.
As this article goes to press, neither Jesus, the Hidden Imam or John Maynard Keynes has returned to earth, which is unfortunate as religion has never been in greater need of validation.
It’s irrelevant if religion has practical benefits in terms of charity, community building and teaching ethical behavior, if religion’s key claims are not rooted in reality. Either religion is factual or it is not and either there are good reasons to believe something or there are none.
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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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I recently watched Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe Awards and found it hilarious. He’s got guts. In his closing line he shouted out that he wanted to thank God for making him an atheist. I think that also took guts - on top of everything he mentioned during the night he finishes off the show with a jab at religion.
It makes me wonder sometimes, being a religious person myself, how different would life be if you’re an atheist?
I moved into a new house not long ago and on our first night’s sleep, we discovered a note was cellotaped to the back of our bedroom door. It was a prayer, one I hadn’t heard before. The following morning I looked it up and discovered that it’s a life prayer.
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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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Should we play God? It’s time we dumped that question. It only shows how deluded we are about where we’ve already got to.
Playing God is taking over responsibility for the things that once could only be committed to prayer, ritual and trust in the Almighty – the things that couldn’t be controlled, including most things to do with the health of you and those you loved.
You become responsible for what was just “in God’s hands”. A hazard of life becomes a risk you accept. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the matter of starting a family.
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People often say that without God there would be no atheists. Presumably that’s meant to be some pithy truism that shows no one exists without God.
To an atheist, that’s about as meaningless, smug and lazy as saying that without Bigfoot, Sasquatch-deniers would not exist.
Swathes of people seem to put atheism in the ‘unthinkable’ category. It is a position they cannot empathise with at all – the most similar attitude that comes to mind is homophobia.
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Update 12.35pm: Stephen Fielding has just told The Punch that he was mistaken when he claimed on Q&A that Kevin Rudd did not believe in evolution. A number of commenters have attacked the PM below off the back of Fielding’s claims but the Senator says: “I made a mistake. I thought I had read it somewhere but obviously I didn’t, I apologise to the Prime Minister for the mistake.”
We now know courtesy of Monday’s excellent episode of Q&A that when Stephen Fielding and Kevin Rudd first met the PM pulled a Bible out of his top pocket and gave an impromptu sermon. It’s not clear which passage Rudd read although we can presume it wasn’t Ezekiel 25:17 - “I will strike you down with great vengeance and furious anger and you will know then that I am the Lord” - tempting as it may have been for the PM to pass the ETS by popping a cap in the Christian Senator’s ass.
I am not a violent person either but there was something about the creeping Jesus quality of Monday night’s show that had me wanting to kick a hole in the plasma, wondering angrily whether anyone can remember the French Revolution and the quaint conviction that the Church is over there, the State is over here, and never the twain shall meet.
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The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put before people a choice: Dionysos or the Crucified?
He saw with clarity that there were two starkly opposed views of life being lived out around him. One followed Dionysos, or Dionysius, the Greco-Roman God of wine, who championed hedonism. The other was the Christian way, the way of the crucified saviour who gave his life for others. God taking on flesh to save the world — that’s crazy, said Nietzsche. Many today seem to agree with him.
A new book called The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas (Ariane Sherine (Ed), The Friday Project, 2009) agrees with Nietzsche, but wants to tell even him to chill out a bit when it comes to Christmas.
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From my observation it is never Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or even Scientologists who get upset when a nativity scene goes up in a chicken shop at Christmas.
I am not surprised, because as people of faith they understand that their religious freedom is only as safe as it is for those who hold a different belief.
For this reason I have always been perplexed as a professed Christian by objections to Australian women wearing a hijab in public. I recently walked the Kokoda trail with one young Australian woman who wore it the entire way – quite an effort.
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