Friday, September 23, 2011

Moderation and Censorship

I know I have been on a slightly extended hiatus from here (work, life, gorgeous girlfriend... etc) but an issue has come up that sparked my motivation.

The Western Sydney Freethinkers Facebook page has been alive with activity of late. This originally started when several members visited a Coptic church which commenced a very fruitful relationship. What followed was some intelligent and thoughtful to and fro-ing between members of both groups, however the page has now come to the attention of a couple of well... trolls, with one in-particular being a conspiracy theorist.

The flood of dubious posts has brought up the topic of censorship and moderation, with one option being the separation of discussions with rules set by the original poster. While this is a tempting idea, the word Moderation always leaves me with a bad taste; whilst it certainly has its place i.e. illegal content, blatantly violent threats (even that is a grey area) and any quote from that abysmal movie “Mean Girls” (kill it with fire) I believe with the ability of personal blocking, full page moderation is not required.

Now I “DO NOT” agree with most of what is being said; actually I feel some of the ideas are personally abhorrent; but that is all the more reason to leave them for all to see, let the idiocy stand on its own wobbly, misinformed and deluded legs. The idea of Skeptics groups, pages, blogs etc. should not be to exclusively talk amongst ourselves, but instead plant the seed of doubt in the believer, show the “Fence Sitter” that the two sides do not hold equal weight and more importantly expand our own understanding of the world and the varying beliefs that occupy it.

The WSFT have done this very well, with members of varying backgrounds, relationships being sustained with different churches, events and speakers focused on the idea of education and understanding the opposing viewpoints. If all someone is doing is trawling through the comments to find what they decree is “logical” then they’re doing it wrong. I am all for ridiculing these people, using their comments to test our degree of sarcasm and abilities at humour, but moderating them on an open page is playing directly into their hands and fortifying their beliefs. We need only look to the SAVN and their applaudable use of screenshots for damming material while showing the public the AVN’s true nature as the AVN moderate the hell out of the page, do we really want to hand out the same ammunition?

Please don’t read this as accommodationist nonsense; I am a firm believer and activist for “Do be a Dickism” for people who clearly deserve it (anti-vaxers, 911 Truthers, theists who need to resort to bizarre philosophical concepts to prove their god). So here is a process of sorts (may require some expansion) as everyone loves a flowchart... hmm, just me then?

In conclusion if you really can’t stand it anymore just press “Block”; if you only wish to talk amongst the like minded, create a closed group; as for moderation in terms of deletion or exclusion in an open group, is just being hypocritical.  


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Save our Indoctrination

I received this letter in the mail accompanying a flyer for the CDP (christian Democratic Party).

For those who aren't aware, over in Australia we have a class in public schools called "SRE" or "special religious education" and for many years those children who's parents opted out of this class where prohibited from attending any other educational instruction instead, so the kids are usually shoved in a room to do basically nothing. Along comes this idea for a Secular Ethics class on an opt in basis for those not attending scripture. Please check out the above link for more information on the classes and check out the Sydney Atheists for even more info, but for now let me take this letter point by point then on to the CDP.

Ummm sorry... replace??? Nope, supplement I think was the word you were looking for (or maybe not), parents still have the option of sending their kids to SRE but now there's another option and children aren't wasting important time accomplishing nothing just because they don't subscribe to your particular religion.

30 years hey? Well if that is the case then you must have at some point taught me and I don't seem to recall delight coming from myself or any of my friends. So how exactly is scripture helping children with difficulties?? Is that by releasing all control to an all knowing ego maniacal imaginary friend that will punish you if you don't follow an exact (although open to interpretation for any purpose you so desire) set of rules. Or maybe by making them feel ashamed by their natural human urges. Or possibly by teaching them that life is so simple that all the answers can be found in a translation of a translation of a translation of a 2000 year old grouping together of various texts with dubious authorship , contradicting stories, blatantly unethical teachings and patently false accounts of history.

Ethics classes will enable children to work through ethical dilemmas and come to their own conclusion on whether an action is right, wrong or one of the many shades of grey and the reason behind it. Isn't it far better for children to figure out right and wrong on their own in a semi-controlled environment other than just dictated to from an authority. It is good for children to be exposed to differing viewpoints and again Ethics classes are not about being dictated too, but more so working through moral issues together. There is loads of information as well as videos on the net that show how these classes are conducted, so parents can get informed before "OPTING THEIR CHILDREN IN" to the Ethics course.

 The Jesus portrayed in the bible was not particularly ethical by any modern standards, whilst there are some valuable ideas in there, they are in no way inherent to the faith and seriously you would expect the supposed son of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient creator would have been spot on. The Jesus in the bible bolsters the idea of women being akin to property, which if you really agree with that you have no place in modern society. Jesus also speaks of thought crimes being comparable to murder as well as infinite punishment for finite crimes. Freewill?? The very idea of a God that knows all, sees all and is all, is that we don't have a choice "everything is according to a plan" or as the line goes, which basically means that your whole existence is already mapped out, so technically you would not be responsible for your actions in such a world. If the christian god existed, we would be mere puppets controlled from before the beginning of time to play out a contrived plan set out by a ego-maniacal dictator who says "obey me" or else you'll spend eternity in torture.

It would be far better for our kids to feel empowered to make the tough decisions on their own without relying on an outside influence to provide the answer for them. How are any children missing the opportunity of learning about their parents religion?? Again YOU HAVE THE CHOICE, Ethics classes are not being forced on anyone SRE will still be offered, not to mention sunday school, church services and here's a novel idea, how about teaching your children yourself, then you can spout whatever you want (within reason). As well I believe the writer has contradicted herself with the  "His perfect plan for their lives" doesn't sound too conducive to free choice.

Small highly vocal minority hey??? One quick Google search say most reports state an overwhelming majority support the move. Blatantly making unresearched statements and placing them in a letter does not make them true. Ummm... I feel like it is ground hog day... but screw it here we go again "Ethics classes are not frick'n compulsory", you're still free to indoctrinate your own children into whatever religion you happen to adhere too, I don't agree with your choice but I'll fight for your right to make it. On that same line of reasoning why can't we wait till they are more educated before introducing religion?? If it really is so good for us we would choose it later in life regardless of upbringing. 

Sorry that last statement is just abhorrent, if your moral compass is so screwed up you believe this is cruel, next to teaching children that all who won't subscribe to your particular brand of nuttery will burn forever in hell or moreover that the child themselves will burn if they don't follow these outdated set of rules, well maybe you would benefit from some structured Ethics classes.

Another blatantly false set of statements, most parties support scripture in schools for those parents who wish their children to attend, but will also support Ethics classes for the rest of us. In fact I believe the Labor government wants to boost funding for the School Chaplaincy program.

Yes we have a great reputation for being 'laid Back' and yes the non-religious have been apathetic in not speaking up about public schools pandering to religion, and outraged about our kids being ostracised in a classroom not doing anything constructive because of it. Ok, so our Australian christian heritage is so strong that religion appears just once in the Constitution
Section 116 - Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
"The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth."
 But it doesn't seem like anyone wishes to pay the constitution any heed or seem to remember what our ancestors got up to when they arrived... Oh wait, sorry genocide and slavery are all common themes in christian heritage, so maybe your right.

May god richly bless you and your loved ones??? Unless you happen to believe something other than me, then please sit quietly in the corner why I indoctrinate your children and inform them why your going to hell.

You may think I have been too confronting with this issue, or I'm engaging in one long-winded rant (could be the case) but I attended two of these schools, my family went to these schools, I have lived in Emu Plains all my life and my parents have been here some 35+ years, I love it here and I hope to one day raise my own family here. I hate the thought that my children's  precious education time and funding could go to teaching them 2000yo superstitions as truth, I'm all for teaching comparative religion or religious history of how these beliefs evolved over time but not when the blatant falsehoods described in the bible (and other so called sacred texts) are portrayed as being fact where they clearly fly in the face of all current scientific knowledge.

In short I don't support SRE at all, parents have ample opportunity to teach their children about their particular religion without impacting the education of those who don't subscribe to it.

Party Responses to SRE

That's it for this post, I'll leave the SDP for another time.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Three Thinkers Podcast - Ep #39

A group from the Western Sydney Freethinkers attended a Faith Healing at the New Life Church in Rouse Hill. While we intend to post a thorough take down of the night, I wanted to get this out there as soon as possible due to the events discussed may come around before we have a chance.

In this episode we also discuss a certain Sydney Politician (very much a surprise) that was present at the event and his push for policy not because the population calls for it but because his particular religious belief demands it.

Bigotry and ignorance is alive in Sydney and it prays to push itself on the rest of us.

 Subscribe on iTunes and Visit The Three Thinkers


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freethought Bookshop

A quick plug for our friends over at The Rationalist Association of NSW and their Freethought Bookshop, details are as follows:

Freethought Bookshop
The Rationalist association of NSW
58 Regent St Chippendale 2008 NSW Australia
Established 1912
Bookshop Tel: (02)9698 2933
Atheist & Rationalist literature
Opening hours: 4:30pm-7:30pm
1st, 2nd & 4th Thursday of each Month

So if your in the Sydney area please drop in, peruse their selection and have a chat with your friendly local Rationalist.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Thursday 9/12, a few members from the Western Sydney Freethinkers attended a screening of “Collision”, a movie that follows Christopher Hitchens (no intro needed) and Douglas Wilson (A christian pastor) through a series of public talks about the morality of Christianity. The screening was hosted by the Emu Plains Community Centre Baptist Church, with church members/christian guests making up about 85% of the audience. After the movie there was a Q & A with Ian Bryce (Australian Secular party, Sydney Atheists, Australian Sceptics) and Dr Andrew Ford (Moore Theological College).

According to our MC, both Hitchens and Wilson were shown the movie in its final cut and both agreed that it was even handed. One opinion could be that it was even handed because although Hitchens wins most of the arguments using rational arguments, Wilson (and the christian side) was portrayed in style that was meant to show how moral, patriotic and wholesome christianity is.

For example:

  • While Hitchens was shown in his study, on his own, surrounded by books and drinking whiskey, Wilson was shown at the dinner table with his family in jovial spirits while singing grace.
  • As a bible passage was being read by Wilson, the camera cut away to a shot of the American flag waving in the breeze.
  • The background music was often dark and brooding when showing montages of Hitchens in day to day activities.

Of particular note was the look of jubilation on the faces of the christian contingent whilst the scenes of children singing hymns was showing.

The movie did have some humorous moments, such as light-hearted bickering between the two speakers and boxing/wrestling music as a lead up to each speech. Irony was lost on Douglas when he utilsed the analogy of God being a jailer while your chained to a wall, used in the context of not being able to touch the jailer but the jailer can choose to touch you.We could go on to describe the movie for you so you don’t have to watch it, but essentially the arguments were

  • Religion stops progress
  • The bible has lots of immoral rules, such as how to keep slaves and to kill your enemies (every man, woman, child & beast)
  • Religion has been used by those in power to control the masses
  • Humans have evolved their own moral code that is necessary for the species to continue existing
  • The churches themselves have evolved with the progression of society, which would have been impossible with an omnipotent/omniscient god.

  • All morality is attributed to god whether you are a believer or an atheist, but poor/no morals are a result of godlessness.
  • The first world is so successful and moral because of the high percentage of christian citizens.
  • Atheists have no father figure watching over them, so they are more likely to be immoral (have a good time!).
  • Stalin was an atheist, and that is why he was evil.
  • Why would an atheist care what happened, if there is no purpose to the world?

Q&A with Ian Bryce & Dr Andrew Ford

After the movie screening we were treated to a Q&A with representatives from both sides. As previously mentioned the Atheist contingent was out numbered but was by no means out classed. From my perspective; biased as it may be; Ian did a fantastic job, precisely and clearly answering the questions thrown by the crowd, he pulled no punches and always went straight at the heart of the matter, constantly reiterating that Christianity is nothing more than superstitious nonsense.

The Q&A was when we were the most riled up, Ian was forced into the defence position from the onset, Andrew was allowed to sit back smugly answering questions with whatever nonsense he could muster and the audience ate it up.

Andrew liked to play the morality card discussing the various outreach programs and how the church helps people, although not going into specifics. But when questioned on where morality comes from the issue was shrugged off stating “That's a debate for another time”. Ian on the other hand backed it up with the observation that morals evolved over time independent of religious teaching and the religions eventually adopted it as their own.

Ian made a great point (this is paraphrasing) that religion has no real world explaining power, where as the scientific method (conclusion through experimentation) is responsible for all human advances for example; brushing your teeth, washing and general hygiene, these are things that the apparent omniscient god did not advise about, so on that scale science 1,000,000,000,000 – Religion 0.

Post Q&A discussion with Christians: An unthinking enemy


I would have to admit that I was a little bit apprehensive about attending this event, not because I felt I may have a change of mind or a religious epiphany and run off screaming “hallelujah praise Jeebus” down the street, but more so because I wasn't sure if my arguments would hold up against the believers, the people who have devoted their life to a deity and have been (by their own admission) touched by the holy spirit. Well my friends, I must sadly report that my judgements of christianity where very wrong... I gave them far too much credit.

Firstly arguing Jesus existence in a hypothetical manner by saying “if there were a man who performed all these miracles, who rose from the dead, wouldn't he deserve our praise?” well yes... The same as Spiderman should for taking down Dr Octopus.

I received an argument that because Jesus' life was written about in four separate books therefore it must be true, well I pointed out that given that logic, there must be an island out there with Dinosaurs cloned from 65 million year old blood found in a mosquito encased in amber. An addition to this was the “How come so many people believe in Jesus then, if it were just a fable, the belief system would not have endured” Well we can see well documented evidence of how a belief system/Religion/Mythical figure can rise e.g. Scientology, Mormonism, FSM (I'm aware it's a parody but give it time), Harry Kenwell... to quote a great Atheist comedian and songwriter Tim Minchin ”I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means they're worthy”.

The constant barrage of fallacies was testing our resolve, everywhere we turned they were firing them off as though scripted... Bang!! take a personal incredulity. Whack!! have a Bandwagon and for good measure take some special pleading, a straw man and several general Non Sequitur's.

I was very surprised at how easy it was to identify the flaws in their logic, that's the good thing about a circle, there's a lot of empty space at it's centre.


The arguments presented by the Christian side were essentially the same that are always presented, but even Hitchens acknowledged in the film that it is rare in a debate that you’d hear an argument you’ve never heard before. “Irreducible complexity” is the idea that some biological structures are too complex to be subject to evolution, and it was argued as a way to dismiss the theory of evolution as a whole. It was thrown around with smug faces that didn’t wait to hear a rebuttal. But since there is no “real” evidence for evolution anyway, I guess we’re pretty silly to continue with this position of “faith”. After all, it’s preposterous that we evolved from monkeys! There seemed to be a common belief that if evolution can be discredited, then Christianity is the only logical conclusion, which is of course a false dichotomy. There was also confusion about the meaning of the word theory in a scientific context, and the argument that evolution has never been “proven”.

When discussing morality, they attempted to convince us that Hitler and Stalin were both atheists, and therefore atheism is immoral. Good thing that nothing bad has ever been done in the name of Christianity, otherwise wouldn’t that be embarrassing. In Q&A time, a Christian man asked the representatives from both the Christian and Atheist sides to list their charitable involvements, on the assumption that whether or not you believe in a god determines how charitable you are. So much for being humble.

After all was said and done, I doubt any minds were changed, and I’d bet that they will continue to use these same arguments over and over. But for all the facepalming, Christopher Hitchens definitely made the night worth it.


I chatted with two young men who decided that they would enlighten me as to how evolution was false. Their argument was simple – There aren’t enough transitional fossils, using the artists impression of “Descent of Man” as literal evidence. I tried to point out that every time a new so called transitional fossil is found, it creates 2 new gaps on each side, and that there aren’t any big leaps but minor changes over many generations to create any significant change. Their retort to that was – “why aren’t there fossils of each particular change in each species?” My reply “Fossils are very rare in relation to how many creatures have been alive throughout history, not everything gets fossilised”. Apparently that answer fits suspiciously too well, and they decided they wouldn’t pursue that point because I had too much “faith” in science/evidence/reality.

Then one guy decided it was time to bring up irreducible complexity, so I simply stated that his argument was invalid, and to try something else (I call it the “Dawkin’s Law”, in a similar vein to “Godwin’s Law”).

I also talked to one man who claimed that because there actually is a Jerusalem, Jesus must have existed, because Jerusalem is in the bible.

He then went on to say that because there are no remains of Jesus Christ, which is proof he rose from the dead and later ascended into the heavens.


Special thanks to Bob & Bronwyn.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Holistic" Nonsense - Final Response

This is an email exchange that occurred at my workplace. We receive a publication via email called "Be Well" sent by Peak Health Management and is distributed across the whole company regardless of individual consent. The article in question was regarding Reflexology.


I'm writing in response to an article about reflexology. Whilst I have read your disclaimer, I believe you still have a responsibility to ensure that the information presented within your articles is based on current and legitimate medical and scientific research.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I denounce my evil Atheist ways...

God hath spoken to me at 4:15am Sunday 18th October, via an anonymous mobile phone call from a young lady regurgitating Bible verses who then proceeded to invite me to their local Bible studies group at 6pm that night, well I'm converted... Not!