WHAT were we going to talk about all weekend? Nothing? Could we scientifically prove the existence of Richard Dawkins? What does an atheist scream during sex? “Truth, evidence and reason?” We’d heard them all.
We atheists were in heaven at the Rise of Atheism Convention held last weekend. More than 2500 people, who for many years had felt like the only atheist in the village, were suddenly luxuriating in a free-thinking soup. There were enough people who looked like Trekkies and scoutmasters for The Chaser boys to say, “Welcome to the Global Atheist Convention, or Revenge Of The Nerds 4,” and for all of us to laugh.
There were loads of great lines. I loved Sue-Ann Post’s take about religion being like going without the lobster in favour of the invisible dessert; A. C. Grayling’s “Religion and science have a common ancestor – ignorance”; Dan Barker, ex-minister, now atheist, who spoke about his debate with Cardinal George Pell.
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“The debate topic was ‘Without God we are Nothing.’ Maybe without God he is nothing.”
Funniest line of the weekend? “Here’s a two-word argument against religion: Senator Fielding,” from ABC’s science guy and confessed ”congregational hedonist” Robin Williams. He was referencing Fielding’s appearance with Dawkins on Q and A last week. Watching Fielding, a creationist, speak, Dawkins looked as if he was witnessing a talking cat.
And no, we didn’t all agree on everything. But we were all open to rational debate.
When any topic is off limits for rational thought and critical analysis, it infects the way we think about everything.
Becoming an atheist, I’ve become fascinated by religion. When I was a believer I was very uncomfortable discussing or reading about religion because so much of what I read conflicted with my fundamental beliefs.
When you no longer believe, it’s fascinating to look under the bonnet and see how it all works.
There weren’t enough women in the line-up. But the percentage and the gravitas of tasks given to them was far greater than usual.
Sure, there was a ”women’s panel”. But Sue-Ann Post was the opening act, and I was the closing act on the opening night. And Taslima Nasrin, who now lives in exile due to religious persecution, was a highlight.
Educator and sceptic Kylie Sturgess introduced Dawkins to the stage. I wondered how many times he’d been introduced by a woman.
Leslie Cannold and Jane Caro and I have decided to address the common refrain of ”We couldn’t find any women to speak” by setting up a website called No Chicks No Excuse, with a list of women speakers on diverse topics.
Here are some questions atheists are frequently asked:
What do you actually believe in? Truth.
Isn’t atheism just another religion? No. A religion believes in supernatural power. Sure, Dawkins is super and natural – but he’s not supernatural.
When I asked what the difference was between a religion and a cult, someone replied “a good accountant”.
The ”atheism is a religion” question is best answered by the Non-Stamp Collector, a YouTube animator who says: “Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby, off is a TV channel or bald is a hair colour”.
Why are you atheists so angry? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then anger is in the sphincter of those people whose beliefs are being confronted. No one who agrees with Dawkins has ever called him strident.
The word ”militant” has become synonymous with atheist. Militant is simply a word used to describe someone showing opposition in a way the people being opposed don’t like.
And yes, atheists have killed, tortured, lied and stolen – never in the name of atheism, but because they’re bad.
Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists are generally moral people. But that’s not because they’re Jews, Muslims, Christians or atheist. It’s because they’re people.
I do hate. I hate religion taking credit for most people’s innate goodness.