by Greg Spearritt
I’m one of a number of SoFers who are tripping off to the Melbourne Convention Centre this weekend for the Global Atheist Convention.
I expect the fears of those like Barney Zwartz will be realised: there is bound to be some triumphalist, fundamentalist atheism on display. Apparently blind adherence to the doctrine that religion is baaad and atheism good, with no shades of grey – a la (for the most part) Richard Dawkins and Tamas Pataki, who are both on the bill – is no better than its polar opposite in the many conservative churches and mosques around Australia.
I doubt, though, that the event as a whole will be able to be easily dismissed. There are some incisive thinkers there (A.C. Grayling, for one) and they have a genuine point to make.
Being ‘religious’ (whatever that means!) is the default mode in our society. Belief in God is socially acceptable; atheism is somehow dangerous, and will frighten the children. We’ll all fall apart morally if atheism gets a proper look in, so best not to mention it let alone have Global Conventions about it.
Yet the evidence is clear: religion, for all that it is lauded in every way (including through generous tax exemptions) has been implicit in pretty bad stuff even in Oz in very recent times, whether that’s intolerance and injustice toward GBLT folk or sexual abuse of children. The small-minded racism that can be encountered even within your bland, apparently inoffensive local Anglican congregation (as I know from 40 years’ experience) exists just as surely as true compassion and a passion for justice.
The Global Atheist Convention, as I see it, is a small, long-overdue measure towards achieving some balance. Religion needs to earn its place. It should not be allowed to maintain its present position of privilege by divine right.