I didn't see this coming; I've become one of those people who writes letters to The Age. A couple of weeks back I wrote a letter in response to some nutbar who felt that touring a piano around the world would do 'more harm than good'. This week, I wrote in to respond to an article attacking Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene) for being a 'fundamentalist atheist'. Unfortunately, my letter was not published but they printed a letter which made essentially the same points so I was happy. Here's my letter:
It’s hard being an Atheist. We can’t get tax exempt status if we want to start a charity, we get less holidays and one of the few things that all religious denominations are united on is that Atheism is completely wrong. But probably the worst part about being an Atheist is having the same fatuous arguments thrown at us again and again about how incredibly plausible an invisible, omniscient god is (Fundamentalism, religious or secular, gets us nowhere, Margaret Somerville, The Age 28/5). Ms. Somerville implies that the existence of a god is equally valid a proposition as a godless universe. There is no evidence for the existence of a god whatsoever (And which god is the author talking about? Jehovah? Allah? Xenu?). For the last time, the burden of proof lies with the person who makes the extraordinary claims. Proving the absence of something is ostensibly impossible. Personally, I believe in the existence of a teapot that orbits the Earth. It cannot be detected by instruments on Earth because it is too small. Prove that the teapot doesn’t exist and I’ll convert to a religious sect of your choosing. I also take offence at Atheism being described as a religion. Religious people just know they are right, usually in the face of conflicting evidence. Atheists are people who have looked at the available evidence and have tried to reach the most rational conclusion. We don’t know we’re right, we just think that there is so little evidence for the claims made by any and all religions that we probably don’t need a god as part of our worldview. This is the exact opposite of a religious mindset. We don’t want to spread Atheism at the point of a gun; we want people to reach these conclusions themselves so that we can live in a society in which the dangerous myths of religion have gone the way of Zeus, Poseidon and Thor.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I couldn't help noticing a certain advertisement plastered over almost every tram in Melbourne that exhibited a brand of vacuousness usually unseen even in the particularly vacuous world of advertising. The offending advert features various androgynous clothes-horses lounging around in designer rags casually enjoying a planet with a drastically increased sea level and temperature. The caption coyly states that its clothes are 'global warming ready'. Presumably the ad is designed to appeal to people whose greatest concern for the future of this planet is the continuing availability of 'fashionable' clothes - the kind of demographic who only know the term 'global warming' at all because they accidentally overheard it on a news break during Big Brother Up Late. Climate change is a serious issue, not just some buzz word to be regarded in the same vein as the latest sitcom catchphrase ('Anthropogenic increase in the earth's average temperature? What the?'). I'm not saying that we have to be deathly serious (I do have a sense of humour - how hilarious was that 'what the?' gag in the last sentence?) but I fear that this sort of media simplification reflects attitudes that already exist in a large section of society. It's as if it's enough to just know these catchy little soundbites without actually understanding the underlying premise that they represent. It's like that guy at work who thinks he's making a very political joke when he makes fun of John Howard for being bald. Delve a little deeper into the issue. Don't be the kind of mindless shemp who sees these media contrivances and assumes that they might be saying something meaningful when they are in fact just superficially cashing in on issues with real relevance.