Friday, 2 April 2010

Running Scared

Religious leaders have used their Good Friday sermons to launch an attack on what they call a recent surge in atheism.

Thousands of Christians crowded into churches this morning to mark the solemn Christian festival of Good Friday.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen told his congregation atheism is not the rational philosophy that it claims to be.

Dr Jensen told the congregation that atheism is as much of a religion as Christianity.

"It's about our determination as human beings to have our own way, to make our own rules, to live our own lives, unfettered by the rule of God and the right of God to rule over us," he said.

"What we're really seeing, once more [is] an example of the contest between human beings and God over who rules the world."

The Anglican Archbishop's comments were mirrored by the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher.

In his Easter address, he said Christianity has proved to be both vulnerable and hardy in the last century.

"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.

"[It's] the illusion that we can build a better life without God."

Atheist Foundation president David Nicholls says the comments are an act of desperation by the church.

"We're not forcing anything on anybody," he said.

"Hitler, who was a Catholic, forced Nazism onto the German population.

"Stalin forced his ideology onto the population. They didn't do any of these things in the name of atheism, in fact Stalin was trained in a seminary."

In his sermon, Dr Jensen said the passion of its followers shows atheism a religion in itself.

But Mr Nicholls says that atheism does not have its own belief structure.

"The passion and vigour that Peter Jensen refers to is only in his own mind," he said.

"Because atheists say it as it is, and it's against what Peter thinks, he would have to include those words.

"Atheism is just the acceptance that there is no God, and apart from that people make their own decisions."

The anti-atheist messages come after a global convention on atheism was held in Melbourne last month.

Organisers of the Rise of Atheism conference say about 2,500 people attended the event which included keynote speaker Richard Dawkins.

It seems someone really hit a nerve. I've got to wonder though why it is that a group of people whose commonality is to call the notion of God as absurd are battling an omnipotent omniscient entity for the control of the planet. I didn't realise there was that much power in publicly professing that God is anthropomorphising reality.

I've got to say I feel sorry for the archbishop. He's got an entire belief system build up around faith in an entity that can't handle people professing its non-existence. Because really, that's all atheism entails. The implicit or explicit rejection of the notion of gods. Nothing more, nothing less.

Atheism is no more a religion than starvation is a meal. That not collecting stamps is a hobby, that rejecting astrology is a means to predict human events. That anyone could be scared of those not afraid to say in public "I don't believe in God" is beyond me. Then again, I'm not really sure what there is to be afraid of.

"The right of God to rule over us", interesting choice of words really. If I were to make a conjecture, this isn't really that we can profess publicly there is no God. It's that we don't accept the authority of the pulpit.

If as the Catholic bishop indicated, it's an illusion that we can build a better life without God, then atheism isn't a threat. And what is the alluring sales pitch of atheism exactly? "There is probably no God so stop worrying and enjoy your life". Yep, I can see why people are coming to atheism en masse with a motto like that...

If God really existed and was a force in this world, denying God would be like denying gravity. The fact that its a matter of faith that there is an omnipotent omniscient entity intervening in the affairs of humanity says so much about what they are trying to preserve.


Jadehawk said...

man, that conference really shook them to their core, didn't it :-)

let's hope this is indeed a step in the process of religion finally losing its grip on human minds. progress is not inevitable.

Stephen said...

Dr Jensen told the congregation that atheism is as much of a religion as Christianity.

When you get a sentence like that early on in the piece, you know it's not going to be a good read. Given the coverage of the conference in The Age, I expected to see at least half of the article given over to an atheist pointing out just how stupid this sermon sounds. Or do they only need to have 'balance' when the content might be suggesting that atheism is vaguely mainstream?

Sili said...

The end of the article amused me the most:

"Before World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, Bishop Fisher was castigated for remarks he made about the case of a priest who raped two girls. He told a news conference he wished people would focus on the positivity of World Youth Day ''rather than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds''."

"Dwelling crankily on old wounds."?

You mean like dragging Stalin and Pol Pot into the discussion? (Whatever happened to Mao, by the way?)

Monado, FCD said...

And the pope said that criticizing the church was like anti-semitism. What a jerk!

Who left the Comments' idiot-proof gate open? There are at least a thousand gods or goddesses that the Christians don't believe in--does that mean that they sit in darkness? Someone please tell that idiot that Einstein was an atheist, not that it matters one way or another to my personal beliefs.