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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sydney Atheists

There's been a lot of movement in the Sydney Atheists over the past few months and it's been fantastic to be a part of this group as it loses it's baby teeth and becomes a fully fledged organisation. I think that the time has come to let everybody in on the changes, structure and growth of the organisation that have come to be lately.

But first, a bit of background is required. It all started a couple of years ago, when the Sydney Atheists meetup group was created by Ansgar (perhaps he will expand on the process in the comments?). This group would hold regular monthly meetings with the vision to bring likeminded people together and facilitate the free exchange of ideas in an open and comfortable environment. The meetup would host a monthly meeting, which would include a topical talk, as well as plenty of general discussion and opportunities for socialisation. Additionally, there were also monthly social lounge events, which would not have an agenda and were more of a meet-&-greet, get to know you kind of affair. Both of these are still running and now form the basis of the social aspects of the organisation.

At some time in the development of the Sydney Atheists (someone will be able to clarify when), about a year ago, a group of interested people formed a sub group called the 'Sydney Atheist Action Group' which would get together and work on a variety of projects that were outside of the scope of the more socially based meetup group.

This group (unappealingly acronymed to SAAG) toiled with a variety of projects, but it wasn't until 'World Youth Day' that the cogs really began to turn.

[World Youth Day was the misnomer for the week that the Pope visited Sydney, earlier this year]

During WYD, the Sydney Atheists mounted a campaign of reason to stand up against the ridiculous nature under which the Pope's visit was conducted (including a massive overspending and a controversial ban on annoying the pilgrims). During this time, the SAAG group was responsible for organising various campaigns promoting reason and secular values over faith and dogma. (including the now infamous 'Good without god' message, along with 'the pope should pay his own way' and the 'sponsor a lion' messages)

This brought much interest to the SAAG group and following the WYD protests the momentum that the group had picked up was funneled into the formation of the Sydney Atheists Committee, marking the beginning of the 'Next Steps' for the Sydney Atheists

The committee consists of a group of people interested in promoting, developing, organising and maintaining the group. We have a variety of roles (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) and stream coordinators (Social, Educational, Media, Policy, IT) which focus on the different areas of the organisation.

So far the committee has been working on our charter, becoming incorporated, branding, and various projects such as T-shirts, bumper stickers, fliers, posters, business cards, membership forms etc.
Events that we have organised have been regular topical meetups on the first Sunday of the month (recent talks included joke religions and teaching evolution), regular Atheist Social Lounge meetups on the last Thursday of the month, a blood drive, diabetes charity walk, and the Newtown festival stall.

We also provide information about other events happening in Sydney that members of the organisation might be interested in. Recent examples include a Humanist talk, debates and a lecture on the God Delusion.

We have a website, blog, photos, podcast, newsletter, Meetup site and a Facebook group.

With so much happening, there is bound to be something for everybody in this vibrant and energetic group, so if you haven't done so already, check us out, let us know what you think about what we are doing and think about becoming a part of it. All of our events are open to all atheists and atheist friendly people, we welcome civil discussion with those who have different views to our own and we are more than happy to answer any questions that you may have (see the 'Ask an atheist' form on the website).

There's plenty of opportunities to get involved coming up, including:
  • a social night out to watch SA committee member, Dave the Happy Singer, as he performs his unique blend of musical comedy (Nov 16, details here )
  • The November Atheist Social Lounge (Nov 27, details here)
  • The December topical meetup (Dec 14, details here)
  • The next Sydney Atheist Blood Drive (Jan 11th, details to come)
  • We will also be celebrating Festivus (details to come)
Check us out, get involved have a great time and be Good Without God.

Hope to see you soon!


  1. I see in that first photo they brought a puppy for a snack. Were they out of babies?


  2. "Atheism- The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.

    Makes perfect sense."

    So if we came from nothing for no reason, then what is the point of being good?

    Why not just get as much out of your life as you can for yourself and leave it at that? Why add in all this crap about being "good"? Does being good even matter, really?

  3. Trav, if the bible is your only reason for being good, you're not much of an advert for Christianity.

  4. Hey Dave, thanks for replying to all my comments on the other blog posts- we've had some interesting discussions and I do plan to continue them when I get a chance. Bear with me though, work will be busy this week- I have a new manager starting tomorrow, and I also have an exam around the corner!

    On this topic:

    "Trav, if the bible is your only reason for being good, you're not much of an advert for Christianity."

    I notice you ducked my question, so I'll duck yours and throw it right back at you. Fair's fair.

    Lets clarify this whole argument by focusing on the core issue.

    My contention is this:

    Believing in a God who is bigger than we can imagine, who commands us to love one another and who will eventually judge all people provides a solid reason to do good in the world.

    The result of such a belief is this: Anyone who believes in that God will feel accountable for their actions and their convictions will ensure they feel compelled to do the right thing, even when no one else is watching and/or they couldn't possibly get caught.

    Can an atheist claim the same level of accountability?

    Does the atheist have a genuine reason for thinking that caring, compassion and doing good are all seriously important?

    I really would like to hear a satisfactory answer to the following:

    Why NOT just get all you can out of life for yourself and not worry about anyone else, unless they help you first? After all, there won't be any consequences unless you get caught, right?

    So the difference, morally, between a Christian and an atheist could probably be summarised as such:

    Where does the ultimate accountability lie for an atheists actions? With themselves.

    Where does the ultimate accountability lie for a Christians actions? With God.

    I'd have to say that none of the evolutionaty explanations for morality can suffice. They all do a poor job of explaining morality.

    Not only that, but I haven't heard many atheists explain why they'd have legitimate motivations for doing good and why morality would be any any great importance to them personally.

    Considering that the Sydney atheists are such vocal proponents of doing good, I'm hoping I can get some good answers here.

  5. Also, another side to the issue is the fact that our ideas about morality in Western Civilisation are largely based on and influenced by Judeo Christian morality.

    So atheists here in this culture, are living within that framework due to history. So in actual fact many of your own ideas about morality are derived from Judeo Christian values. Which makes it kind of ironic that you then claim that those values, and using those values as a basis for living, should be made redundant.