Entries Tagged 'News' ↓

News: Seminar Feb 2011 Melbourne – alternatives to dogmatic atheism

Hegel Summer School 2011:

The New Atheism: Just another Dogma?

Saturday, February 12th 2011

Oases/Borderlands, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn

10.00 – 5.00, followed by drinks
This year’s speakers and topics are:

Tamas Pataki: „The New Atheism: Just Another Dogma?“

Cameron Shingleton: „Overkill: Richard Dawkins and The Limits of Pop-Scientific Atheism“

Petra Brown: „Messianic Atheism: Giving the Golden Calf a Good Roasting“

Stephen Stuart: „Dangerous beliefs: Zealotry, Wisdom and Public Health“

The „new Atheists“, notably Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins, have been getting a lot of media time, setting up a choice between narrow-minded and dogmatic atheism versus religious faith. This is a false dichotomy. Belief in God is consistent with a perfectly rational materialism, just as not believing in God does not necessarily imply a dogmatic assertion of the non-existence of God.

Our four speakers explore non-Deist alternatives to the dogmatic brand of Atheism now being promoted and expose the questionable foundations of the New Atheists. The need for a third way, over and above religious tolerance is important if a genuinely humanist way of life is to be possible in modern conditions.

For more detail and further program and abstract updates go to:


The Hegel Summer School invites you to a day of fruitful philosophical discussion in a collegial environment. The cost will normally be AUD 30 but we can offer a concession rate of AUD 20. Lunch and tea/coffee included.
Please pay in cash on the day and RSVP (including your dietary requirements) by COB on Tuesday, 8th of February 2011 to Lea Campbell on Lea.Campbell@gmx.net

News: Richard Dawkins Celebrates 400 years of King James Bible

KJB was first printed in 1611 and this is the 400th year. Richard Dawkins, outspoken religious critic, assists with the celebrations as he, like many of us, recognise the major literary influence of the 1611 Bible.


Alex McCullie

News: Atheists Not So Ignorant According to Pew

According to the US Pew Forum (http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx):

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

So when you get the ‘you don’t know what you are talking about’ from a Christian apologist, just respond with this survey. My favourite response to the need for the ten commandments for the basis of morality is to say something like: ‘interesting, I need to re-read them.

Ignorant atheist: ‘Oh, by the way. Where do I find them?’

Christian apologist: ‘The Bible!’

Ignorant atheist: ‘Yes, of course. But which part’.

Christian apologist: ‘Not sure. Old Testament, I think’

Ignorant atheist: ‘Yes, I remember. They are at Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. Perhaps you better check them also now that you know where to find them! I’d also recommend the NRSV as a pretty good translation, although I’m fond of the Jerusalem. Bye now!’

Life has some pleasures.

Alex McCullie

News: The Pope should look inward

Benedict marked his arrival in Britian with an attack on secularism and atheism with the predictable Nazi comparison.  The Pope might be better turning his moral indignation inwards to the systemic child abuse by his fellow Catholic churchmen. Years of church denial and cover-ups should be of greater moral importance to humanity than his attempting to perpetuate their irrelevant superstitions. The Papacy hypocrisy must test even their Catholic saints!

See Guardian report below…


Alex McCullie

News: Ban the Burka – So Says Belgium

Metro news site reports that Belgium is closer to banning the public wearing of the burka and other face coverage, typically worn by some Islamic women. A final vote will be taken on 22 April though all government parties support the proposed bill.

‘We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen,’ said Daniel Bacquelaine, who proposed the bill.

Many people are ambivalent about the full-coverage religious clothing. It seems symbolic of systematic oppression of one group within religious communities by the dominant group. To our simplistic view Islamic women are required to hide publicly their bodies so that Islamic men can control their sexual and aggressive urges. On the other hand we live in a tolerant society that encourages personal expression and the women concerned claim ‘freedom of choice’, a problematic concept within any close-knit societies or groups. The Belgium proponents bypass this concern and argue against the secrecy of hiding one’s face while in public similar to shops banning the wearing of motorcycle helmets.

Thinking about these issues becomes more complicated when religious defenders raise the banning of displaying or wearing crucifixes, kippahs, turbans, rotary club badges, and so on. Where do we stop?

Alex McCullie

News: More Morality & Brain Links

Australian ABC Science reports that neuroscience continues to link brain function and human moral behaviour with God’s involvement becoming more and more a fantastic speculation. This time it is magnetic effects on moral choices from Massachusetts Institute of Technology research with similar results to loading the brain while making moral choices. Under load and magnetism, apparently, we turn to choices based on outcomes more than the perpetrator’s intentions. Again this seems choosing between the utilitarian and deontological ethical systems.

Alex McCullie

News: Daniel Dennett – 5 Non-believing Preachers

Five preachers, five non-believers, five fascinating stories of providing pastoral care while reconciling public faith with personal disbelief.

Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola just published a small study exploring how five stories of practising pastors dealing with personal and hidden disbeliefs in the Christian movements they are promoting. Financial and social dependences, family relationships, church loyalties, and fear of adverse public reactions keep them quiet and ultimately distressed with their circumstances.

The researchers discuss the philosophical and mental ploys used to reconcile their conflicts. Conflation of the concept of God with the actuality of God in discourse blurs the line between ’word use’ and ontological reality. The worshipper hears existence while the pastor means concept.

In (post) modern discourse, myths can be truthful without being factually true. So these pastors can talk about the (unsaid metaphorical) truth and meaning of Jesus’ resurrection with believers without acknowledging the event actually occurred. Again traditional believers continue to hear that the biblical event actually happened.

Ultimately the pastors feel they can make a difference, introduce more liberal thinking amongst parishioners. The pastors are unwilling to question the literal interpretations openly but hope to achieve this change through a sort of osmosis. The researchers are unsure how this could be achieved. Overall one can empathise with the humanity of their struggles and fears of rejection and hope they can find satisfactory resolutions.

Alex McCullie

News: Boston Catholics advertise to stop falling confessions

The decline of the mainstream Christian churches is self-evidence in most parts of Western society. The world-wide increase of Christians comes from nations of Africa, Asia, and former Soviet republics. The latest casuality, much to my surprise as an Australian, is the confessional numbers in US Catholic churches. While older parishioners persist, young people are staying away, preferring to see “their faith as a spiritual and less an institutional concern”. An online Boston Globe article shows Boston Catholic churches desperately ‘spruiking’ the benefits of confession via radio and web-site campaigns. The best they seem to hope for is “planting the seed”.
Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church has more systemic image problems with the young, issues inconsistent with today’s community attitudes – explicitly anti-homosexual attitudes by Catholic leadership; rejection of women for religious leadership roles; continued rejection of condom use; celibacy of the priesthood; prolonged hiding of child-abuse by church officials; stigmatising many sexual behaviours as ‘sinful’; concept of being born with an original ‘sin’; the improbability of doctrines like ‘Transubstantiation’; and inability to explain problems of evil (all-powerful, loving God with needless suffering). Is any sort of advertising campaign, no matter how slick, going to overcome these impediments? This is especially so when combined with largely antiquated and irrelevant ceremonial practices often held in ostentatiously ornate buildings? These attitudes and practices, even if unfairly stereotyped at times, are condemned by so many in society as well as by the younger people.
Alex McCullie

News: Separating Christ from Christian Charity

In US and Australia governments fund Christian charities to help the disadvantaged. The question is whether or not government-funded activities should be free of Christian proselytising. This area has always been problematic for supporters of a secular society: is it state-sponsored religion through the back door?

The Washington Post, drawing from a New York Civil Liberties Union article, has an interesting article outlining the problem for US legislators. US government agencies will monitor the charitable activities of the Salvation Army to ensure that the recipients are not subjected to Christian proselytising, perhaps a welcome change under President Obama.

According to the Post article though discriminatory recruitment practices are still acceptable – Christians to work for Christian organisations, syphoning off social tax dollars for religious conversions are not.

Alex McCullie

News: A.C. Grayling on Cherie Blair

Great AC Grayling article at Richard Dawkins site about the ‘morality’ of Cherie Blair’s decision to be lenient on a religious (Muslim) assaulter of another. Would we treat the surviving 9/11 perpetrators with some leniency for also being religious, which they certainly were?

Alex McCullie