For more information on the Sydney Atheists Visit our website here.
You can also check out our photos, newsletter, podcast and MeetUp site.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Richard Dawkins at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Richard Dawkins at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday, August 11, 2008. The interview was conducted by Paula Kirby.

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Walk to Cure Diabetes

The Sydney Atheists have joined the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Walk to Cure Diabetes". We will be completing the 5km walk on October 12th at Sydney Olympic Park.

To help us make a difference, please consider sponsoring us though my walk website, or choose your favorite Sydney Atheist to donate to from our group site. It will be great to be seen doing good in our atheist t-shirts, but it would be even better if we actually raised some money!

To find out more about the JDRF and how you can help go to the JDRF website.

Sydney Atheist's that would like to join the group can register here. We are registered as a company.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Critical Mass Newsletter No1

CRITICAL MASS
Newsletter of the Sydney Atheists

#1 September 08

Hello everybody and welcome to the first edition of the Sydney Atheists' newsletter.

We have been really busy over the last few months planning the direction that this group is going to be taking and there have been a lot of interesting developments coming out of the committee meetings (formerly SAAG). The major shift has been in growing the group from being a meetup group to becoming an actual organisation, with a variety of different pursuits and chances for people to be involved in more productive ways. The branches and projects that have been identified are:
• The development of a survey to gather information about the group members and non-believers in general.
• Education and Syllabus, which is looking at the possible introduction of atheist teaching in educational environments and could include doing talks for schools, productions that demonstrate scientific and rational topics in ways that are accessible to all levels of audiences and influencing syllabus in the educational system.
• Charity, which is looking into both outgoing and incoming charity. A blood drive is being organised, see below for details about how you can get involved. A book drive and community service events are also being considered. Then there is the possibility of doing some fundraising for our group, which will develop as the need for funds increases.
• Media, which is involved in the production of a blog and this newsletter. A podcast will also be developed and is expected to be launched by the October meetup event.
• Vision and Values, which has been working on the core principles that the Sydney Atheists will be built on.
• Networking, which involves increasing awareness of Sydney Atheists amongst various organisations, communities and other such outlets.
• Legal, which have been looking into the details of becoming an incorporated body, applying for a tax exempt status and discrimination against atheists.
• T-Shirts, which is a continuation of the production of the t-shirts being made around world youth day.
• Lobbying, which will be responsible for organising and producing press releases, letters to government officials and other opportunities for the Sydney Atheists to make their voice heard.
On top of these new directions, the Sydney Atheists will also continue holding monthly Meetings and various social events throughout the month.

We are all really excited about the future of this group and are looking forward to the increased opportunities to make a difference.


Articles by members:

Here's a hand-picked selection of articles from members of the Sydney Atheists. To submit an article for inclusion in either this newsletter, or the Critical Mass blog, email criticalmass@live.com.au. We would like to use this newsletter to share what members have been up to, so get writing!
1. Hill$ong Crosses the Line... Again!
2. Poisoned by Secular Dinosaurs
3. Shermer vs. Lennox: Does God Exist?
4. Does Atheism Entail Materialism?


Further reading:

There's a lot going on out there, and this section will collect the best and most relevant content from the web and funnel it down for you. In the meantime, here's a collection of interesting stuff to keep you busy. Again, content suggestions can be emailed to criticalmass@live.com.au
1. Dale McGowan receives the "Harvard Humanist of the Year" award
2. How to be an atheist activist
3. Carnival of Evolution #1
4. Humanist Symposium #24
5. The Skeptics' Circle
6. Tooth or Consequences
7. Tips for Dating Believers
8. Swift Bulletin


Blood Donation

We have been working on some charity and community service events for members of the Sydney Atheists to get involved with. The first charity event we will be holding is an atheist blood drive. It’ll be a chance to do something really positive and spread the notion of positive atheism.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service Sydney CBD blood donor centre is at 20 Elizabeth St, Sydney – right near Martin Place.

The Sydney Atheists encourage all members to take time out of their day on Saturday the 4th of October to participate in the first Atheist Blood Drive at the Elizabeth St Donor Centre.

Blood donation is completely safe and won’t take much time out of your Saturday. If you are interested in taking part in our Club Red donation day please contact Alan Conradi at criticalmass@live.com.au for details on how the program works, eligibility information and what happens on the day of the blood drive.

Blood is not only needed during times of emergency, but for many people in the community, including cancer patients, burns victims, expectant mums, premature babies, and people with blood disorders who need blood on a daily basis for their survival and quality of life. Help save lives and share the positive message of the Sydney Atheists.

If you would prefer to donate at the alternate Sydney donor centre in Clarence Street please call 13 14 95 to make your individual appointment.


Sydney Atheists Charter

The Sydney Atheists committee have been working on the charter and have come up with the following as the core of the organisation:

Vision, mission and values
Our vision is of a society that lives and grows through evidence-based reasoning and secular values.
Our mission is to be:
• an active atheist resource for the wider Sydney community; and
• an open and welcoming community for atheists and atheist-friendly people.
We work through education, charity and by representing the voice of reason in public debate. We also get together to celebrate life and have fun.
Our values are:
• an open and inquiring attitude
• evidence based reasoning
• inclusiveness and diversity
• respect, compassion and goodwill.
The above is based on three core positions:
• we want to engage the wider community, not isolate ourselves from it;
• we seek a level playing field with religious organisations —we donʼt want to discriminate against religious people or seek special status ourselves; and
• we are also about the wonder and awe of existence.


Other stuff
A selection of links that members might find interesting. Each month there will be a different selection of sites.

Atheist Foundation of Australia
The James Randi Educational Foundation
Richard Dawkins. Net
Atheist Nexus
The Atheist Community of Austin
The Infidel Guy


Contributors to this newsletter

Sydney Atheists
Critical Mass Blog
Engaging Preachers
A Drunken Madman

Please forward this newsletter to all of your atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, freethinking, critical thinking, rationalist, open-minded or generally interesting friends and help to spread rational thinking.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Amy the Taxidermist

Dave The Happy Singer is a productive member of the Sydney Atheists.
This is a video from Tuesday night at the Cat and Fiddle.

Good work Dave!



Dave also writes the Engaging Preachers blog

CFI: It's Time for Science and Reason

The blurb for this video says:

The methods and values of scientific thinking have expanded our knowledge of life and our place in the universe. This modern knowledge—based on experience and evidence—has brought enormous benefit to humanity, yet many people still choose to rely on ancient texts and beliefs to guide their lives and their nations.

The Center for Inquiry exists to change this situation. We are here to promote the scientific outlook—to expand the methods and values of science into all areas of human endeavor.

We invite you to learn more about the ways we are using research, outreach, and activism to advance reason and human values around the world. Then, if these values are as important to you as they are to us, we ask you to join CFI.

Let your voice be heard. With your help, we can ensure that our time—your time—will be a time of science and reason.

In a cultural climate that has become so hostile to science and secularism, the work of CFI is more important than ever. If you cherish rational thinking, science, and secular values, please join CFI today.




In this video are:Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Pinker, Susan Jacoby, Damon Linker, E.O. Wilson, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Ann Druyan, Daniel Dennett and Paul Kurtz.

Find out more about the centre for inquiry here

Friday, September 12, 2008

Clicking Around Youtube...





Representing the Godless Youth

I have just received this month's "Australian Atheist" magazine, which contains an article by yours truly about the recent interview and panel that I was involved with.


This is an excerpt from the editorial:

Thanks to NSW AFA members, Hannah Taylor and Alan Conradi, the workload was somewhat shared. You may read about Hannah's and Alan's experiences with the media on pages 8-10 and 11-13. Both performed professionally and intelligently, giving an endearing, uplifting, positive and human face to atheism. These bright young people holding firm and rational ideas about existence could only impress the discerning listener and viewer. My guess is that even some religious folk may have been surprised at their assertiveness in clarifying atheist ideas with such
confidence. Well done, and thank you.
And here's the article.

There’s been a lot of attention given to the different religious groups, especially during the recent catholic perversion of taxpayer’s money dubbed ‘world youth day’. We have seen all kinds of different religions represented in the media, but there hasn’t been much time given to non-belief. This is why, when I received an email from the AFA asking for a young person in Sydney to represent atheism on a religious panel, I thought it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The email explained that News.com were going to be holding a youth panel on religion and were hoping to get an atheist representative. I wrote back straight away.
David Nichols called me soon after I replied to the email and we spoke for a while about my positions on the various topics likely to arise, the basis of my atheism, the kinds of books I read etc. In a day or two, I was called back and told that the AFA was happy to have me as the atheistic representative on the forum. I was excited, while at the same time being worried about the possibility of stuffing it up and making atheism look bad.


Preparation

I got in contact with News.com and was basically given the same information that was in the original email. What I did pick up from my initial conversations with the reporter was a seeming lack of bias. When discussing my view of religion, she seemed genuinely interested and I got the impression that they were going to represent my views fairly. I was still very aware of the possibility of being misrepresented, especially given the recency of the ‘Expelled’ controversy where Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott and other prominent advocated for secularism were the victims of biased editing from Ben Stein’s intelligent design entourage.
From this point, I began to prepare myself for the event. Some of the books that I read during this time include David Mills’ ‘The Atheist Universe’, Christopher Hitchens’ ‘God is not Great’, David Hume’s ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and Sam Harris’ ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’. I found that ‘The Atheist Experience’ podcast was great for learning how to discuss atheism and I learnt a lot about interview techniques from this and other podcasts. The internet was also a great source of information pertaining to ‘the big questions’, like stem cell research, abortion, sex before marriage, big bang and evolution theories. I practiced defending my positions by engaging in discussions with family, friends and members of the various rational thinking groups that I belong to.
On the 21st of April, I received an email from the News.com reporter that said that the format was to be changed from a debate to individual interviews that would be spliced together. The reason for this change of format was because the videos for the news site were to be no longer than around three minutes each and a debate would not work in such a format. This was a shame, as I was looking forward to getting into a bit of a debate, but it was still a good chance to dispel a few myths about atheism and show that we aren’t a rabble of baby-eating Satan worshippers.
We were lucky to get the questions ahead of time, which allowed me to draft out my answers and send them to the AFA to see if I was on the right track. Once I had my answers, had read up on a variety of different topics, and had a few practice discussions with people, I felt that I was ready to do the interview.

The interview



When I arrived at the News.com studio, I was quite nervous. I was taken to a meeting room and chatted with the reporter while she set up her equipment. She seemed genuinely interested in atheism, especially the social aspect and where an atheist gets their information from. As the interview progressed, we deviated from the set questions quite a bit. I was asked about why science is important to atheists, whether it is right to question people’s beliefs and a great deal about (catholic) world youth day. I also explained the differences between atheism and agnosticism, tried to dispel the myths about atheism being related to satanism, anarchism, narcissism, etc and I also spoke about how atheism only addresses a lack of belief in gods. The Latter point meaning that there is no atheistic dogma and that each atheist subscribes to their own moral and ethical codes, usually based on a social exchange or humanistic model. I found that once the initial butterflies had been overcome, the 45 minutes flew by. By the end, it felt much more like a natural conversation than an interview.
I left the studio feeling excited, but all the way home, I was thinking about my answers to the questions and the things I could have said better or should have made clearer. I was consoled by the idea that it was great just to have a representative for atheism in the interviews and if some good points were made it would be a bonus.


The photo shoot

A few weeks after the interview, all of the participants attended a photo shoot for the online promotion of the clips. It was interesting meeting the other participants, as I wasn’t sure who I’d been up against to this point. I had expected that the religious representatives would be hard-edged, well spoken, thoroughly indoctrinated, public speaking trained preacher-types. Though when I did meet them I found that my fears were unwarranted. They were all fairly normal young people, with no particularly obvious religiousness about them. The Muslim, Hindu and Catholic were there when I arrived.
While we waited for the others, we chatted a bit, introducing ourselves and which religion we represented. I got talking to the Catholic about world youth day, which was a good discussion, but we had to agree to disagree. The most interesting of the participants was the Buddhist, who identified as an atheist and fully supported evolution. We spoke about our beliefs, I helped him understand what positive atheism is and the difference between atheism and agnosticism; he explained reincarnation and the core beliefs of Buddhism to me. What was most interesting was that he said that his spiritual belief is fully accepting of the scientific consensus on any issue, which I wasn’t entirely convinced about.
During the photo shoot, the Muslim announced that he was not permitted by his beliefs to touch a woman. There were a couple of group photos where we all had to factor this in to our positioning and during a shot where we all had our hands on top of one another’s the Jewish girl unknowingly put her hand in his, and he quickly withdrew his hand as if he’d been burned.
There was very little animosity between the participants and a general air of acceptance and tolerance between all of us. Once each person’s faith was whittled down to its core beliefs it seemed that everyone there subscribed to a basically humanistic model, to which the believers applied a variety of unnecessary additions.
The online clips

The first video released for the ‘Faith off’ was a teaser promo. It highlighted some of the more controversial positions, such as banning sex before marriage, god as a creator and reincarnation. My quote was “Heaven and hell are fictitious places”, after which I was more comfortable that my words wouldn’t be used out of context.
The full set of clips was released soon afterwards, covering evolution, homosexuality, life after death, world youth day and fitting in. Throughout the clips, the common religious positions are supported. Sex before marriage is wrong, homosexuality is wrong, evolution is wrong, but their religion is right when it comes to theories of an afterlife, or promoting religion. The Buddhist had some interesting points to make about world youth day, evolution and sexual restriction, so I can’t claim to be the only source of reason, but I was hoping that some of the religious representatives would have tried to be a bit more progressive. As it happened, the religious views tended to seem quite out of touch with a modern society that is generally permissive of the things that they were prohibiting.
I enjoyed a good response to the release of the videos, with many of my friends from online communities giving lots of positive feedback. All in all, I was happy with the way I was represented and was glad that my fears of being edited out of context were not supported. It was a great feeling to be given the chance to represent something that I feel strongly about.


The Kerry-Anne show
1st part


2nd part


Not long after the ‘Faith Off’ videos were released, the participants were all contacted by a popular breakfast TV show called Mornings with Kerry-Anne. They basically wanted us to speak about the same issues that we had for the Faith Off, but this time it would be a live group panel.
We all arrived and met in the green room, but there were only two of us from the original interviews, the Buddhist and myself. The catholic was the twin brother of the one from the video, who couldn’t make it because he was with the Pope on the day (I’m sure nobody noticed). The Jewish and Muslim participants didn’t arrive until just before the show went on-air. While we were waiting for the show to start, we were all chatting about our various different opinions and had the opportunity to each explain the grounds for our positions, which led to a big discussion about the origins of the universe, whether the taxpayers should pay for world youth day, and the difference between and non-exclusivity of atheism and agnosticism. I was surprised that the others were happy enough talking about such subjects and that there was not much conversation about their reasons for belief.
It wasn’t too long before we were all called down to the studio, miked up and sent on set. Kerry-Anne introduced us before starting with the questions which included life after death, religion’s responsibility for wars, suicide bombing, promoting tolerance, the roots of religion and ‘what if you’re wrong’.

Of the panellists, the Buddhist was the most eloquent, the Jew seemed to be reciting lines and the Muslim girl didn’t seem very confident at all, which wasn’t surprising, since she was asked to explain about suicide bombers and the virgins after death. It was a tactless question, even for morning TV. The rest of the questions were met by fairly predictable answers, with nothing too shocking. It was breakfast TV though, so I wasn’t expecting Jerry Springer.

I was amazed at how many people saw it though. As we were leaving the studio, I got a rush of text messages and phone calls from people that had seen it. Old work mates, friends, family, at least 6 people contacted me within the first hour saying they’d seen it and I hadn’t told any of them about it before hand. Even this week, months later, I was asked by someone at my work ‘Was that you on TV?’ There’s also been some pretty wide distribution of the video amongst the online atheist population since it has gone to youtube; I was even congratulated by the guys from the Atheist Experience podcast, which I listened to in preparation for the first interview.

Overall, I’m so glad to have had the chance to do this. To stand up for something that you feel strongly about and get recognition for it is a great feeling. After doing this, I am now much more confident in discussing and debating various topics whenever the chance arises. I still have much to learn about the finer points, but through a thirst for knowledge and a deep interest in the subject matter, I continue to learn and build stronger arguments. I would encourage all atheists to do the same.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mormon Movie Marathon

So, you wanna know a bit about the Mormon faith, but don't know where to start, here's a cartoon that explains it all



or you could always check out the riotous South Park episode "All about Mormons" (Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb)

But what awaits behind closed doors i the Mormon church?

Well, it just wouldn't be religion without a little blood ritual, would it?



Then there's the secret underpants



A secret handshake



and some scripture







now you're ready to start spreading the word of Mormon on your very own mission



oh well, if at first you don't succeed...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hil$ong Crosses the Line... Again!

Hill$ong, Australia's own A$$emblies of God Penteco$tal evangelical mega-church have reportedly been secretly trying to convert primary school children. There have been complaints from teachers and parents about Exo Days, a free lunchtime BBQ and concert being driven by 'Youth Alive' who are a youth ministry branch of the Hillsong Church.

The church deny that it is a recruitment drive and also say that particpation in the events is voluntary and that students are made well aware of what's going on.

This is not out of character for the church, which uses marketing techniques to make the church seem appealing to kids, which includes 'pop' music (in the broadest definition of the term), using 'street language' (Life is excellent (Exo) with Jesus!), fashion and social opportunities as bait to draw the attention of the kids and start the process of religious brainwashing ... indoctrination ... child abuse ... youth ministry.

This really pisses me off! The fact that they have their sights so firmly set on the children is bad enough and then they have to go and invade the schools as well! It is a despicable thing they are doing. The minds of our children are not a battlefield.

More info here here here here and here

Here's a video of Tanya Levin talking about Hill$ong with Andrew Denton


...and The Chaser, just to lighten the mood after such a depressing story

are you a *real* atheist?!

"Are you a *real* nun?" This is just one of the many conversations with Catholics that took place during world youth day. A group of us Sydney Atheists were wandering around the city, when I saw that this nun (wearing the full nunny entourage) was staring at my t-shirt, which read 'Sydney Atheists'. She stopped me and said "are you a real atheist? Oh you're not are you?", as if atheists are some weird mythological race of hu-mons that only exist in sci fi movies. This lead to quite a pleasant conversation about beliefs, values and morals, and it turns out that she has all the same moral values as us, we just don't believe in a god to be good. This was rather hard for her to understand, because atheists are evil by definition... right? Well, hopefully we opened her mind a little, and showed that we are good people, and don't do good things just because we are scared of god. She mentioned something like "oh, when you grow up, you will see the truth of the bible". Geez, I really hope not.

I am *really* enjoying reading Ray Comfort's blog at the moment. It always gives me a good laugh, while at the same time is a stark reminder that there are serious crazies in this world. I particularly enjoyed this genius piece of literary work, obviously inspired by god himself. Quote:

"If God can make an eye, an Ark is a piece of cake."

And that's it! Nice. In order to post a comment on Ray's blog, you must "respectfully capitalise the name "Jesus" and/or "God,"... well on this blog, no such rules apply, and we don't care how blasphemous you want to be, because it *doesn't mean anything*. I also wonder why Ray chooses to call his blog 'atheist central'... It is quite difficult sometimes to comprehend that this guy is actually serious, and not just a parody. The majority of his most vocal commenters are atheists who constantly have to keep correcting him on the ridiculous arguments he makes time and time again.

Anyway, I totally love this song, and just have to post it. So corny, yet so catchy and hilarious. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Intertoob Interview

The clips of the 'Faith Off' have now been put up in youtube,



enjoy

Monday, September 1, 2008

Atheists and the Ark

Here's the slideshow of our night in church.



check out the Sydney Atheists

For info on our events, look at the calendar at the bottom of this page or contact us at criticalmass@live.com.au

Atheist Quotes

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