Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Advertising Atheism

AtheistFollowing its debut in London, we’ve had a number of successful (if low-key) Atheist bus campaigns around the world.

The recent Rise of Atheism convention got me thinking … how we can keep the momentum going?

How do we engage the proverbial man-on-the-street with the ideas of Atheism? After all, religion is so pervasive in our society.

Sometimes it seems that no-one thinks twice about a man in a dress doling out flesh cookies to kneeling acolytes. But suggesting that this Jesus character and his cosmic Dad might not be real?

That’s just weird. Apparently.

Religion has been so successful in engaging the public because they elevate emotion above facts.

Demanding actual demonstrable truth hamstrings us from the get-go. It would be so much easier if, like religion, we could simply make shit up.

So let’s leave aside the anti-theological academics. Let’s advertise the positive emotions associated with Atheism.

One of the slogans originally planned for the Australian bus campaign was this:

Atheism. Sleep in on Sundays.

That’s along the right kind of lines.

What about this:

Atheism. Genuine Freedom.

Or this:

Atheism. Surely you don’t want to spend eternity with Christians?

So what do we think? Any other ideas for snappy slogans?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Me and a Bunch of Celebrity Heathens

In addition to all the wonderful and thought-provoking talks at this weekend’s convention, there was the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of celebrities.

Now when I say “celebrities”, I’m obviously not talking about Paris Hilton or Robert Pattinson.

I’m talking about actual people who are actually famous because they actually have something worthwhile and interesting to say.

And so I, wishing to bask in their reflected glory, wandered around and got myself photographed with them.


The very charming Catherine Deveny.Catherine Deveny

The lovely Jane Caro with The Chaser’s Julian Morrow.Jane Caro and Julian Morrow

The hilarious Lawrence Leung. (This was actually following a discussion on the finer points of Rubik’s Cube solutions).Lawrence Leung

The other Chaser in the room, Mr. Craig Reucassel.Craig Reucassel

The man I was most keen to meet, the legendary PZ Myers.PZ Myers 

 A man whom I’m convinced can make me smarter just by being in the same room, philosopher and awesome hair model A.C. Grayling.AC Grayling


The truly excellent and also none-too-shabby hair model Steve, aka NonStampCollector. (Check out his videos. They’re ace.)NonStampCollector


And finally, the one and only Sean the Blogonaut.Sean the Blogonaut

There were one or two others I sadly didn’t get a chance to meet, like Dan Barker and that strident UK biologist whose name escapes me.

Still, that’s a pretty good collection of happy snaps.

Oh, and many thanks to Jasmine (aka @purplefae) for doing the snapping!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Global Atheist Convention 2010

The Rise of Atheism The dust is settling after Australia’s biggest ever gathering of atheists and the godless delegates are making their godless way home.

The convention was a great opportunity to meet a bunch of people I’ve only known via Twitter and Facebook. It’s wonderful having conversations not restricted to 140 characters at a time.

Organisers managed to avoid divine wrath (and, as Sue-Ann Post said, dodged a PR bullet by not being scheduled during last week’s apocalyptic storm). Protests were limited to a couple of ragged creationists out the front complaining that Dawkins won’t debate them.

It’s like complaining that Michael Schumacher refuses to race against The Wiggles in their Big Red Car.

Media coverage this morning ranged from the excellent and informative (in The Australian) to the snippy and biased (Barney Zwartz in The Age … why do they get him to write this stuff?), and if you’re keen for a blow-by-blow you can check out the #atheistcon hashtag on Twitter.

Highlights for me were Taslima Nasrin’s incredibly moving story about her exile from India when her government decided the rights of Muslim extremists mattered more than her freedom of speech.

Also great were PZ Myers on the inevitable conflicts between science and religion, and Dan Barker talking about his move from evangelical Christian preacher to prominent atheist activist.

All in all a fabulous time was had by all. And me, I’m taking away a definite mood of optimism for a bright and secular future.