I’m afraid I won’t be doing much posting live from the Global Atheist Convention; I’m busy, I’m having fun, my dancecard is full, and whenever things slow down a little bit some new person comes up to say hello. But have no fear, I’ll put up some comments afterwards, and also, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has dispatched a crack team of ace believers to cover the convention and scowl primly at us all. You can get the fun-house mirror version of the conference from those weirdos…and much amusement. I find it very funny that, for instance, that they can complain about how the GAC is unfair in not representing religious believers, and comparing us unfavorably to the Parliament of World’s Religions meeting, all without noting that the PWR got buckets of money from the government here, while the GAC got doodly-squat. It’s silly to demand that we respectfully engage the clownish buffoons of religion, and at the same time insist that we must use our limited resources to give a pulpit to said buffoons.
They are also a bit snooty about the fact that the opening night was a festival of comedy. How dare atheists think that the appropriate way to cope with the follies of faith is by developing a sense of humor! But then, I find this guy hilarious: catch this juxtaposition.
The night finished with Catherine Deveney and “God is Bullshit. That’s the good news.” In your face, yes. And no surprise to those who read her columns in The Age. Her milder lines included, “The only person who takes the Pope seriously is Tony Abbott.” And: “If there is anybody out there who is not an atheist, don’t worry: it’s an intelligence test and you will be eventually.” I met Catherine at the bar before the program started and after chatting she agreed to ‘an interview’ on Sunday.
My thoughts so far? As a Christian I am appalled and ashamed of the crimes, victimisation and discrimination committed in the name of Christ or by those who bear his name. To make light of them through humour is risky. And to stereotype religion in such a way is akin to taking Stalin or Pol Pot as your stereotype atheist.
I’m a little worried about Australian religion and politics now. Chris Mulherin apparently believes that making fun of the Pope and Tony Abbot is like making them the equivalent of Stalin and Pol Pot.
Nobody is making light of the horrors perpetrated in the name of religion — I do appreciate the fact that the first defensive reaction to criticism of religion is a sense of shame, at least — but the goofiness of religion is a wonderful target for humor. To whine that making a joke about one of their poorly regarded pious politicians is stereotyping them as evil tyrants suggests that their guilt and embarrassment is even deeper than I suspected.
Don’t expect much favorable coverage from this lot (and by the way, it’s also hypocritical to complain about the lack of religious apologists on the stage when the ABC blog doesn’t include even a token atheist). They’ve got an agenda that is going to be disappointed, and I predict they will continue to complain in their oblivious fashion. They’re out there in the audience, watching, hoping, and maybe even praying that someone will say something nice about their superstitions; their definition of a good convention is one that reassures them that we don’t think their bliss-ninny belief system is an unsalvageable stew of raw sewage spiced with smug ignorance.
That despite all the terrible things we know about religion – the oppression of women, the paedophilia, the social control, the violence and cruelty perpetuated in the name of one faith or another – there’s a niggling truth that millions of good, decent, hard-working people around the world are sustained, guided, and comforted by their beliefs. Instead of merely bagging religion, maybe we should be trying to understand why this is? In other words, can you have a new awakening without fully knowing what you’re waking from?
Oh, yeah, there’s that guilt again. Aside from the violence and oppression and child-rape and cruelty, how can we possibly consider taking away the baby’s dummy? That’s a fairly common argument for religion, you know — it’s the old “opiate of the masses” defense. It’s not much of a defense. When you’re amidst a group of people who have seen how swaddling minds in ignorance leads to nightmares of stupidity, it’s no defense at all.
We know that millions of good people cherish their delusions. We don’t care; that a lie makes people feel good doesn’t make it a truth. We also understand religion far better than a group of people immersed in it, making a living from propping it up, and desperate to deny that they’re wasting their lives worshipping a phantasm.
I imagine the ABC team sitting out there in the sea of the happy godless, busily taking notes, hoping for some little morsel of acknowledgment that maybe they aren’t idiots and fools for believing in a magic man in the sky who will reward their intellectual blindness with fluffy comfy chairs in a celestial paradise, or at least won’t set their immortal souls on fire for eternity. They aren’t going to get that validation. Which means we already know everything they’re going to say about the conference.