The last word on religion and atheism

April 5, 2010

So is religiosity on the increase, or is it shrinking on a global scale?

I suppose in the end there’s no real scientific way to measure this, but it’s interesting that at Easter the numbers get rolled out to justify either side of the argument.

Tapu Misa’s column in the New Zealand Herald today makes the claim that the number of believers across all faiths is growing and that secularism is on the decline.

Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, 2.3 billion are Christians, 1.57 billion are Muslims, 800 million are Hindus, and 600 million are Buddhists. [Religion undergoing startling resurrection]

But Tapu does admit that secularism is on the rise in the West and it is this news which motivates fundamentalists like the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to claim that atheism is a form of idolatry.

Yeah, exactly: “What?”

Dr Jensen said in his Good Friday sermon at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral that atheism was a form idolatry.

“As we can see by the sheer passion and virulence of the atheist – they seem to hate the Christian God – we are not dealing here with cool philosophy up against faith without a brain,” Dr Jensen told worshippers.

“Atheism is every bit of a religious commitment as Christianity itself.

“It represents the latest version of the human assault on God, born out of resentment that we do not in fact rule the world and that God calls on us to submit our lives to him.

“It is a form of idolatry in which we worship ourselves.”

Cardinal Pell of St Mary’s Cathedral delivered a similar attack on atheism in his Easter message yesterday. He praised government organisations “paid for by the Christian majority” for helping make the Australian way of life the envy of the world, but noted that atheists sponsored no community services.

The new Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, in Sydney’s west, Anthony Fisher, continued the attack in his Easter message.

“Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships – all promoted by state-imposed atheism,” he said. [Believers who hate god]

Sorry Cardinal Pell, you nasty piece of swaddled lunacy, but many community services are non-religious. You think you have a monopoly on charity. Damn you, you self-righteous and idolatrous wanker.

Oh, OK, the same crap arguments about religion and ethics. We’ve had this conversation.

Time to move on. Read the rest of this entry »


Christianity, ethics and journalism: An anti-sermon on Easter Sunday

April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday and I feel like giving an anti-sermon on religion. I’m one of those heartless media types that thinks the Pope and the Catholic Church should be given “Hell” over allegations of child abuse going back 50 years.

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican,” and that “when one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia.” This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation. [The great Catholic cover-up]

I agree with the eminent jurist Geoffrey Robertson that the Pope should be put on trial for covering up systematic child abuse that amounts to a crime against humanity.

Well may the pope defy “the petty gossip of dominant opinion“. But the Holy See can no longer ignore international law, which now counts the widespread or systematic sexual abuse of children as a crime against humanity. The anomalous claim of the Vatican to be a state – and of the pope to be a head of state and hence immune from legal action – cannot stand up to scrutiny. [Put the Pope in the dock]

But my real inspiration today is a couple of nice lines in Rosemary McLeod’s  “Easter” column in the Sunday Star Times, and a point that’s worth challenging.

This is quite good:

I’d guess that most journalists have barely had a Christian upbringing, have scant religious knowledge in general.

It might or might not be true. Certainly in my experience, there’s no shortage of Christian students in my journalism class; they’re probably in a slightly higher proportion than the gay and lesbian students and there might even be the occasional overlap between these cohorts. I’ve usually had more Christians than Muslims (for example) in my tutorials.

On the general point though I think Rosemary is right. Journalists tend to be cynical, hard-bitten and to swing along the spectrum from agnostic to atheist to humanist.

Read the rest of this entry »