Category Archives: Religion

The voice of Australia

I had an excellent survey rate on Friday, but since then, very little.

So far less than 50 Aussies have filled out this tiny survey. No-one from “right of centre” has filled it out.

For it to have any value, readers will need to nudge others to add their voice. If I can get about 2000 people, we will have numbers akin to the news polls.

My hope is to follow this with a second survey; 1) age, 2) last federal vote, 3) more or less likely to vote for the coalition had the GP co-payments been mentioned prior to the election, 4)  more or less likely to vote for the coalition had the increase fuel excise been mentioned prior to the election.

Before I pursue that, I hope to get the numbers for this survey.

Survey: Does the Aust Gov have a mandate on Chaplains in Public Schools?

Government funded Chaplains in public schools: The public voice

As my previous post highlighted, I’ve opened a survey to gauge what the Australian public actually thinks about federal funding of Chaplain’s in public schools.

The survey is a mere two pages and will take less than a minute to complete. It is also entirely anonymous.

It will automatically close at 10pm EST (Aust) on Friday the 27th of June.

Already there has been a good response, but entirely from centre to left and non-religious members of the community. The value of this is entirely dependent upon the voluntary contribution of the Australian public across the various ideological spectrums.

If each person who fills in the survey convinced four friends to follow and this happened once each day for the coming week, we would have more than 20,000 people adding to the public voice. That would be an incredible achievement by all!

Below are many sharing options. It is only through this that we could get a genuine representation of the public sentiment… part from when we next vote and if the issue is a party commitment.

My views may be in the minority and I will be happy should that be the case. I simple hope to know what Australia actually thinks.

Click the following link to fill in the very short survey and please share this page.

Survey: Does the Aust Gov have a mandate on Chaplains in Public Schools?

 

Does the government have a mandate on federal funding of Chaplains in public schools?

I’ve never been comfortable with the title “atheist”. I don’t really know why. I suspect it is because I hate labels that I don’t really care much about and I’ve come to let go of any notion of faith.

It hasn’t always been like that. Even in my mid 20’s I had prayed in difficult times – of which there were a few. By this time, I think I had lost my faith, but not my hope for some supernatural help.

In fact, my faith took it’s deepest cut back in Sunday school of all places. I’ll never forget that lesson.

I was shown an image of a path with a fork. To the left, the path went up a rock road into the hills. It looked grueling. To the right the path remained flat and smooth over meadows. Which, I was asked, is the path of God?

I chose wrong, as I guess all children do. I learnt that the Creator of everything – an entity I was told loved me, personally, more than anyone else ever could – wanted me to suffer throughout my life for some higher purpose. While the universe was built in a week and women from a single rib, God couldn’t make a gentle path.

From then, my faith began to bleed out. It was a slow death.

Chaplains in public schools

Admittedly, I was slow to cotton on to this story, which John Howard brought in back in 2006 and was continued by the subsequent Rudd-Gillard governments.

It has returned to the public eye with the High Court ruling against the Federal funding of Chaplains in public schools. Prime Minster Tony Abbott has assured the public that he is committed to the program and that it will continue.

This story has since reminded me of my old Sunday school days. I have my own thoughts on Chaplains providing advice to my own children, but I know that those thoughts reside with me alone.

But it got me wondering. Our current administration talk a lot of “mandate”…

Let’s find out if the Australian government has a mandate for funding Chaplains in public schools.

To answer this question, I’ve developed a quick survey.

It has a mere two pages with few questions on each; 1) basic demographics, 2) views on federal funded Chaplains in public schools.

It takes less than a minute to fill out and is completely anonymous.

It will be kept open for the next week – until the end of Friday next week (27th of June). Over the following weekend, I’ll collect all the data and report on it by Monday (30th of June).

The value in this survey will only come from your help.

Of course, honesty is the best policy, but most importantly we need numbers; share, share, share! Share this page or the survey directly. We need as many Aussies, from across the political and religious spectrum.

Thanks for your help!

Survey: Does the Aust Gov have a mandate on Chaplains in Public Schools?

Can we trust scientists?

Why I will not be watching Russell Crow in “Noah”

Sorry to be off topic…

Yes, I am one of those annoying people who picks movies to pieces. Of course, when the movie is fantasy, I am capable of suspending disbelief to enjoy the movie. In the case of the new movie, Noah, however, that isn’t an option.

The reason being that there are many people who still take the fable as truth – some going as far as to waste their life away on a vain effort to find evidence.

How can I be so sure that the story of Noah arises in the Middle Eastern dreamtime? Because of engineering. Because of biology. Because of earth.

Of engineering.

Engineering is not my field, so I’ll leave it up to others. In short, a wooden boat of such a size defies the known properties of the material and cannot be replicated by engineers.

Of biology

Now into a territory I’m more familiar with, I will need to break this down to many points to show just how idiotic the idea is.

Scale

No boat could be big enough.

It would have appeared otherwise to the all-too-human author at the time, with their limited experience of life that existed at the time of writing in other corners of the world and of all the life that had ever previously existed.

Even assuming all the dinosaurs and mega-fauna forgot to buy their tickets and assuming genus, or even families were the “kinds” described, the line would still have been too long (eg. ranging from the many millions with species down to the many thousands of families – which in turn would require evolution along the lines of Pokemon, that is within a generation or two, to account for all the species today).

Worse than that; the floods would have either been saline or fresh, meaning that the SS Noah would have needed aquariums for all species of the opposing environment.

And this point is a catch-22; if we grant that the waters were saline – in turn leaving the massive per-historic marine reptiles and modern marine mammals off of the ark – well, then this boat needed to carry a year’s worth of water for all those on board.

Fresh flood waters demands tanks big enough for the likes of blue whales and their buddies.

Resources

The problem of thirst isn’t the end of the problem with resources.

We must also consider what we could forgive the writer for not knowing; trophic levels. That is to say, animals eat each other.

To support just the big carnivorous cats and dogs over this period, we couldn’t have just two of every species – but rather whole herds of prey species. These sacrificial herds were never mentioned.

This in turn magnifies the problem of feed for the herbivores, as the prey herds will need vast amounts of food and water to maintain the meat-eaters.

Assuming that the floods were fresh, thereby saving Noah the issue of carrying the water, he would still need to catch hundreds of tons of krill prior to the flood (because the freshening water would have killed them off) to feed however many baleen whales he needed to carry to “evolve” into the species we see today.

As soon as you factor in food, the already absurdly small boat looks even worse.

Breeding

Again, we could forgive an author a few millennia ago for being ignorant, in this case, of limits to viable population size.

Sure, a few breeding pairs of a given rodent might take off in a new environment, but that’s not guaranteed. We only need to look at how many times rabbits needed to be introduced to Australia before they exploded.

When you are talking about a species that may only breed once a year or even longer, the chances that a single breeding pair would suffice to save to species is effectively shot.

And I’ve ignored the problem of inbreeding here, which would have played havoc with subsequent generations.

Having a singly breeding pair of every known species (or genus or family), Noah would have been lucky to have any persist and flourish.

And now the real kicker

To sprinkle salt into the wound, the year on the ark in itself means everything.

Not only would he need to carry all the animals and all the food (and potentially water) to survive the year, but also for much longer. Worse than this, he would have needed to carry tons of seed.

No seedbank (ie. seeds in the top soil) would remain viable for such a period under the flood. Apart from the osmotic pressure – or high salinity – caused by the flood itself and apart from the silt collection from a year of turbulent water movement (remembering that this silt, the creation would tell us, led to all the fossils), the seeds would simply expire.

So, Noah would have needed herds of prey to release after the flood and enough food to support these as well as the herbivore breeding pairs while he reseeded the entire global terrestrial landscape with all the plant life we see today.

None of this is mentioned and must fail the laugh test.

Of earth

This problem is one noted prior to Darwin even learning his alphabet. No-one has found a single example of a fossilised duck mingled with Triceratops.

We could take this further and state that there has never been fossilised evidence of a giant ground sloth being killed by a t-rex, of a human kill of any dinosaur or of pterosaur competing with a large eagle (noting that they share the same niche).

That’s because these species existed in different geological periods.

The flood silt didn’t conveniently cover different groups in sequence. Of everything, the fossil record is both the most damning and easiest to understand to anyone who has any actual interest in reality.

If these ancient stories are true, show me the fossils.

Back to the movie

Sure, it looks dramatic, but with so many plots holes, the story fails before it even begins. Yet, for the true believer, it would, absurdly, be cementing to their faith. This work of fiction will be watched by the faithful as though it were some documentary!

Of course, Russell won’t be shooing off any dinosaurs or else the critics would rip it to shreds.

Which brings me to the crux; there is a way out for the faithful. It is the only way out and one few who want to sound intellectual is likely to mention; magic.

“Oh, the boat would break? God held it together.”

“Oh, the boat wasn’t big enough? God made the animals shrink for the trip.”

“Oh, there wouldn’t possibly be room enough for all the food and water? God ran a meals-on-wheels service.”

“Oh, there’s a problem with salt or fresh water? God made all aquatic life temporarily salt tolerant.”

“Oh, two individuals don’t make for a viable population? God again…”

“God… God… God…”

Geeezus! Give up with the mockery of science and admit to placing faith in ancient stories over genuine certainty derived through critical analysis and get on making Adam and Eve Dino parks. If you’re willing to suspend the laws of the known universe to make your story fit reality, you are no longer talking about science – which is all about those laws. There’s nothing wrong with that, just admit it.

I don’t care. Live and let live.

If only they could admit to their warped, magically inclined reality, we could dutifully write it off and stop pretending to take it seriously.

Then, perhaps, I would allow myself to suspend disbelief and watch the epic, yet terribly scripted, movie.

Bring the faith to Australian schools and all hell will break loose.

Firstly, I would like to publicly apologize to my wife for my outburst when I heard the following. I was so appalled that this could even be taken seriously in 21st century Australia.

Straight from ABC news;

“Former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.”

Now, here’s why I have a problem with that. Take one example, say from the book of Judges, a story relevant to Judeo-Christians.

In short, a mob wanted to rape a male guest of a household, but were convinced in the end to brutalise his female slave instead, ultimately killing her. Her master then, for some reason, thought it was a good idea to cut her to pieces and leave those parts around the country (story below from the King James Version).

How the hell is that of any value to a child’s education?

Why not teach children about Zeus, Thor or  whoever some culture has ever imagined at some point in history?

The reason we don’t is because it is of very limited value apart from a minor historical perspective. Already children spend many hours outside of school completing homework that has real-world application, such as mathematics, science and English. Why would we want to add to this with mythology?

A child is at school to learn facts and practical skills, not dogmatic ideologies that often threaten death and eternal damnation to non-believers. A young mind is impressionable and unlikely to have the skills sets to take such fiction for what it is without fear of suffering if they do not accept it as true.

For this reason, religion must be kept away from a child until they are old enough to make an informed decision.

Furthermore, ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’ does not reflect modern Australia. Looking at the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data from 2011, 22.3% of Australian’s stated themselves to be non-religious, just shy of the 25.3% who claimed to be Catholic. Another 24.9% stated that they were other, younger forms of Christian.

So around half of the Australian population consider themselves Christian in some form (remembering that Christians have a long history of fighting amount their various sects so one cannot even consider this group united) and the next biggest group are non-religious, accounting for almost another quarter of Australia, leaving one in four Australians making up the other faiths of the world.

We could add that the comment ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’ is insulting. Not only to the half of the population that now do not consider themselves reflected by this, but the various cultures and religions that made up Australia prior to federation.

If anything of culture needs greater representation in schools, it should be the deep history that exists in our indigenous heritage. Not only the dream time stories and cultural significance of landscapes, flora and fauna, but also the modern history that covers the fight for recognition and equality.

This is to most children a complete unknown, which is shameful.

This is why comments made by people like Cory Bernardi about “traditional values” as well as Donnelly’s are increasingly out of date. Bernardi and Donnelly are clearly throw backs to an era that didn’t look like they think it did.

We live in an age that is increasingly humane and well-informed. This has been achieved because we’ve chosen to step away from dogmatic scripture that teaches racism (“god’s people” for instance) and sexism and debated these time-old traditions through humanistic, secular arguments.

It’s a step backwards for my daughter to have to carry a Bible alongside her Biology text book. Both men happily admit that it’s a step backwards, but they would fail to understand why this is a problem.

It’s a massive problem if anyone wants to subject my children to religious education where I send them for life training. If they came home fearful of hell, I would have no problem in confronting the school for child abuse.

Religions get tax breaks to build places to conduct their teachings. Keep it within those walls and by voluntary entry by the faithful and not where evidence and reasoning are suppose to take center-stage for each Australian child.


J’g:19:22: Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.
J’g:19:23: And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
J’g:19:24: Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
J’g:19:25: But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
J’g:19:26: Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.
J’g:19:27: And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.
J’g:19:28: And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
J’g:19:29: And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
J’g:19:30: And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

Bernardi’s zombie values in modern Australia

We ought to thank Cory Bernardi for illustrating that the conservative right politician can swing so far to the right that they are utterly backwards.

Liberal senator Bernardi is making the news with the release of his new book, The Conservative Revolution, in which he makes a number of points that, from his interview this morning with ABC, are based on confirmation bias.

For example, to support the claim that “traditional families” – that is, one that includes a mother and father in wedlock – are better for children than other family models, he relies on self-rating from mothers, overlooking the fact that evidence shows that children of same-sex relationships fair as well in schools as traditional families and much better than other combinations.

And then there’s the point that he is against something which he could never possibility understand or face in his own life – having an abortion. It’s not an easy option, physically or emotionally, leaving his opinion of the matter the only one clearly detached from the serious nature of the choice.

Much of the defence he has made for his book has been in the name of “traditional values”.

In the ABC interview, he notes that these values have been “developed over successive generations”.

Hang on. Isn’t that to say that they have been modified, dare I say it, progressively, over time, to improve morality and the standard of living for our species? What’s wrong with continuing this development to further improve morality and the standard of living?

Cory thinks not – further development is, get this, erosion.

What traditional values are we talking about? In the interview, he goes on to say that these traditional values have made our country such a good one. So these traditional values include, say, white Australian policies? What about taking indigenous Australian children away from their families to raise in white foster homes and orphanages?

If he means to go deeper – to a supposed Christian foundation under modern Australia, well we then cannot rule out the ownership (and further abuse) of other people and the subordinate nature of women to men (after all, she is about as valuable as a single male rib); both of which are key to both the new and old books of that religion.

By comparison, that the Australian government has acknowledged the mistake they made to the stolen generation, that Abbott himself wants to acknowledge Australia’s first people in the constitution, that the majority of us stand for racial and gender equality, as well as an increasing number for marriage equality all suggest we are becoming more moral.

If anything, these so-called “traditional values” are outdated. Not all of them of course. Those that actually improve the lives of people persist. Those that don’t are being rejected.

Yes the dialogue must continue – and by all accounts, the fact that we monitor the gender divide in many professions, that we debate marriage equality, that we discuss and applaud moves to improve the standard of living for indigenous Australians are excellent examples that this dialogue is alive and well in Australia.

What Cory really means is that he thinks we overshot utopia some 60 years ago. He hates that many of the bad ideas of his parent’s childhood have been buried. Of course, he didn’t live it, but conditioned to think it was something that it wasn’t; something splendid, pure and wonderful before the beatniks and damned hippies screwed it all up. It is irrelevant to the moral debate today, as is his book.

Senator Bernardi needs to stop for a few moments and monitor a clock. They move in but one direction. If this values package his desperately grips onto was so great, we would have held onto it.

He won’t bring it back from the dead without, like some zombie, eating the brains and thus higher faculties of reasoning from the population at large.