Sunday, 22 November 2009

Read the goddamn slogan, guys!

As a follow-up to their successful “There’s probably no god” campaign, the British Humanist Association has been busily putting these posters up all over the UK:

Please Don't Label MeIt’s a call to cease the indoctrination of children, and something that should be applauded. What’s more, you’ll notice that “atheist child”, “agnostic child” and “humanist child” all appear on the poster as inappropriate labels.

But in an amusing twist, some commentators on the pro-indoctrination team (such as neo-charismatic Gerald Coates) have gleefully pointed out that the kids in the advertisement are Evangelical Christians!

While this is just a moronic comment on one level (in other news, the girls in the Tampax ads aren’t really menstruating as they ride horses and frolic on the beach), it shows a much much deeper level of stupidity, or wilful obtuseness, on the part of people like Coates.

Way to spectacularly miss the point, guys.

Just let me get this straight … are you saying that … it’s a mistake to use these children because they’re … what’s the label you’re applying? … Evangelical Christians?


Friday, 20 November 2009

Calling All Literalists

Atheist Religion seems to be on the minds of some of our politicians, and for once it’s something other than dog-whistling for easy conservative votes.

Last week Coalition leader-in-waiting Joe Hockey made a speech to the Sydney Institute about the evils of religious ‘literalism’, and this week senator Nick Xenophon called Scientology a ‘criminal organisation’ that should have its tax-exempt status revoked. (I agree, but why stop at Scientology?)

I’d like to think it’s because the increasingly vocal atheist community is getting noticed as a potential vote-winner … but sadly, ‘tis not the case.

Hockey has no time for atheists, despite taking the same line as Dawkins on fundamentalists. The interesting thing though, is that he has no time for theists either.

Hockey wants to promote a kind of touchy-feely deism, where scriptures can be accepted or ignored as you like and God doesn’t intervene in the world in any meaningful fashion.

Sounds a lot like atheism doesn’t it?

It strikes me that that’s what moderates like Hockey effectively are. They just choose to eschew the label.

Why? Maybe it’s the desire to distance themselves from the Dawkinses and Hitchenses of the movement. Or maybe it’s the inexplicable desire to continue considering the bible a source of meaning and purpose.

Either way, I’d like to see more moderates calling out the literalists in their midst. But I can understand why many don’t.

After all, to remove the literalists from Christianity is to remove the movement’s core support base.

Without those who consider God an extant interventionist force, and the political and financial clout they bring with them, Christianity would be just another school of philosophy.

And not a particularly interesting one.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Carl Sagan Remembered and Remixed

I’m a couple of days late, but Monday was the birthday of the late, great Carl Sagan … one of the greatest science communicators the world has ever seen.

Sagan’s wonder at the beauty and majesty of the natural world was a wonderful antidote to those would proclaim that science is just a dry, dead discipline.

Most importantly, Sagan showed us that a sense of transcendence doesn’t require us to conjure gods and demons.

The universe is wonderful enough.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Scientology: Damaged Brand

One wonders what the Senior Worshippers of Xenu must be thinking.

Scientology With the French branch of Scientology being charged with fraud and a recent high-profile celebrity departure, the name Scientology has more than a few unsavoury associations.

Maybe that’s why they’re moving away from using it.

The streetside “Free Stress Tests” have always been conspicuously missing any reference to Mr Hubbard’s little cult, but now even their advertising literature is being edited.

Exhibit A: the leaflet for Narconon Melbourne I found in my letterbox this afternoon.


Narconon is a branch of the Church of Scientology, not that you’d know that by looking at the leaflet.

After all, it’s so friendly and generic! “Get off drugs naturally” … “overcoming addiction for good” …

“Banish your engrams and realise your true thetan self”.

No, wait. That’s what it doesn’t say. Maybe you have to complete a few more levels before you get to that.

Even the small print refers to “The Association for Better Living & Education”. How lovely.

The websites for ABLE and the google-baiting don’t leave you any the wiser, unless you happen to recognise some of the celebrity supporters.

So what’s going on? Has Scientology always been like this? Or has their brand damage reached the point where they’ve decided to quietly abandon it?

Maybe they should do what some of our other “more respectable” religions have done: start a crusade, kill the heretics and take over the government somewhere.

At the very least, it should get them some tax breaks in Europe.