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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cathoholics anonymous

Last night, a group of nine Sydney Atheists visited Theology on Tap, a monthly Catholic get together with a talk and chat format, where a speaker presents on a particular theological issue, followed by some QnA, then everybody mingles and chats afterwards.

The guests on this night were ‘The Priests’, a three-piece a-capella group who sing religious classics in a warbly baritone. Needless to say, we were somewhat underwhelmed. We were expecting a night of theology, and were given a performance. After singing a few songs, the Priests each gave a bit of a talk, then opened up the floor for QnA. One of the people near us, who had figured out that we were a group of atheists (thanks to Jason’s ‘covert’ wearing of his Sydney Atheists t-shirt) turned around and said “Go on, ask something”. But there wasn’t really anything to say. The priests hadn’t really said anything objectionable and it was pretty much all about their music, leaving us without any real pressing questions. One person asked how their music was received by the secular audience, which led to a listing of all of the bands that they had worked with, including U2 and Manic Street Preachers.

During the talk, I was surprisingly noticed as ‘that guy from the Kerr-Anne show’, which led to a group in front of us all whispering and gesturing ‘inconspicuously’ over their shoulders at us. By the end of the night, it was quite obvious that the fact that we were there had spread around the whole crowd (about 200 people!). One guy overheard Jason saying ‘ooh, I’d like another beer’ and bought one for him before spending most of the night on the balcony chatting with a group of atheists.

After the Priests, there was the obligatory ‘dash for cash’, where it was subtly explained to us that merchandise was available upstairs, that their CD would make the ultimate Mothers Day present, and that the ATM was located through the door to the left.

When the sales pitch was over, the crowd started milling about and chatting amongst themselves, but nobody was initiating conversations with us, so I decided that we should be a bit less subtle and start to make our presence known a little more. We started by all getting our photos with a cut-out of the Pope and when Jason, in his Sydney Atheists t-shirt, was getting his picture taken, there was a great deal of pointing and whispering, but still no interactions. So we started to walk about the room with Jason until we were noticed. One of the photographers started taking photos of Jason’s shirt, then took some pictures of the whole group. After this we started to get into conversations left, right and centre.

The guy that had recognised me from the telly came up and introduced himself, then introduced me to Father Richard, a philosophy lecturer and priest from Notre Dame. Not long after that, another philosophy student was introduced to us and a few other people started to ask us all sorts of questions, from ‘so, what’s your group all about’ to ‘do you come across many Satanists in the Sydney Atheists?’

I had a good time talking to people about sex ed, biology, origins, and lots of dispelling the many myths that people have about atheists. From the sounds of it, pretty much everyone that was there had a good time. The vibe of the night was constructive, fair and inquisitive conversation, rather than arguing and finger waggling. We had a really good time and will definitely be back again. Look out for our report on critical mass podcast #7


  1. Father Richard was a splendid chap, excellent company and fascinating to talk to. It was great to have such an eloquent proponent of theism to answer our questions.

  2. If you love him so much, why don't you marry him?