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Tag Archives: religion

Expert criticises report on proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws – calls for more youth representation

RMIT University Media Release

The Federal Government is negotiating how to implement the changes recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report on anti-discrimination law reform, with a bill tabled in parliament late last week.

Professor Anna Hickey-Moody, expert in youth studies:

“A year later than anticipated, this report recommends Australia should ‘narrow the circumstances’ in which religious discrimination occurs, not outlaw discrimination.

“The proposed changes offer very little protection for same sex attracted youth in religious schools.

“Despite the fact that the ALRC state ‘students are at the centre of this inquiry’, the methods they have employed unfairly marginalise youth experiences.

“Over 40% of Australian secondary students attend religious schools.

“However, in assessing the impact of the current religious discrimination legislation, the ALRC spoke mainly to adults.

“They assessed 428 written submissions, only one of which was from a minor.

“The ALRC also undertook 131 interviews with consultees, all of whom were over 18.

“They included students in their survey – but they had over 2,5000 responses from adults in the sector and under 1,5000 responses from young people.

“How can this be seen as placing students ‘at the centre’?

“The voices and experiences of queer religious young people have been largely excluded from this process and this is a significant flaw in the process.”

Professor Anna Hickey-Moody is known for her work with socially marginalised people. She is currently undertaking an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant-funded project on the sexuality and religion of young people.


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Resisting Christian Nationalism: Secularism Australia’s inaugural conference

Spiritual and cultural Christians – indeed such people of all faiths – need to consider allying together with those who identify as belonging to “no religion.” It is the fundamentalist authoritarians who would divide and constrain us all that need exposing as the small minority they truly are. We must make them as powerless as their numbers, goals and hypocrisies merit.

At the first Secular Australia conference in Sydney on the 2nd of December, people gathered to hear presentations on maintaining the line between church and state in Australia. Jane Caro ably ran proceedings, opening by explaining that the conference’s goal was to build a stronger voice for secularists in the way the nation operates. We can no longer passively expect our interests to be represented when our parliaments are becoming more not less religious. The organisations and individuals maintaining our line between church and state must coordinate action. Some freedoms, Caro reminded, are only possible in a secular society.

Michael Kirby launched the conference, drawing attention to the fact that as of the 2021 census, 39% of Australians declared themselves to be of “no religion.” Professor Luke Beck outlined how Australia’s constitution dictates that we are a country where the separation between church and state is established, illustrating the historical battles between denominations that ended up shaping the structures we function within.

David Shoebridge of the federal Greens spoke about the work in federal parliament, noting in particular the “Basic Religious Charity Exemption” robs Australians of considerable wealth from businesses associated with charities and churches such as Sanitarium, as well as removing supervision of how almost $25 billion of public money is spent in these bodies performing outsourced government services. NSW Green Abigail Boyd described the struggle against entrenched and unaccountable religious conservatism in that state parliament. Both spoke of the way so many Australians are made second class citizens in the privileging of Christian prayer in our parliaments.

Rationalist’s Fiona Patten outlined the important achievements her party has helped achieve in Victoria, presenting an optimistic impression of our trajectory. Secularism, as she pointed out, means equality and freedom of conscience. South Australian Labor’s Chris Schacht illustrated the statistical support that secular government has in Australia, urging the bodies assembled to campaign more strategically in counterpoint to our well-organised religious lobbyists. Our politicians do not understand, he asserted, the census results proving the size of the secular vote, instead continuing to prioritise the activated religious vote. Victor Franco described his efforts at Boroondara Council to prove that privileging Christian prayer in such bodies is likely illegal, within Victoria at least.

Our public schools are established to be “free, secular and compulsory.” As Shoebridge had reminded us earlier, a fair and just society is embedded in that injunction. Alison Courtice and Ron Williams spoke about the secularists’ efforts in Queensland and NSW to constrain the controversial chaplaincy and religious instruction programs in their state schools. Federal governments of both stripes have spent almost $1.5 billion to place inappropriate figures in schools. Not only is this a profit stream for Pentecostal movements, but also a mission field. The ALP’s “secular” option is being embraced by these groups with new “wellbeing” companies set up to place more Pentecostal figures in primary schools.

The Australia Institute’s Bill Browne introduced the think tank’s survey results proving that the school chaplaincy program has only minority support in the community.

Former Director-General of the Navy’s Chaplaincy Collin Acton spoke about his brave stand to make sure secular “chaplains” serve in our navy as first resort pastoral care providers (as well as or instead of the old system where chaplains bring a theology degree and a minimum of two years work in a civilian community). The Religious Advisory Committee to the Services, some of whom also treat the ADF as a mission field, ought to be replaced with a secular expert panel to ensure our service people are best protected from psychological distress. The army and airforce have still not embraced the new balance that Acton’s team persuaded the navy to trial.

Acton, Beck, Shoebridge and Kirby all drew attention to the substantial financial ramifications for the nation’s budget in the strong lobbying powers of the religious sector. Money is spent in huge proportions there, much of it unscrutinised for the manner and effectiveness of its use. This, as Caro pointed out, leads to religious healthcare providers becoming the sole service for a region but robbing the population of crucial medical procedures that don’t meet the provider’s moral code.

Part of the substantial injustice of the excess funding of private schools is attributable to this power imbalance. We will continue to become a more unjust society if the public education system is starved of funds in both function and infrastructure, by contrast with taxpayer funds being spent in abundance on church-linked schools. Former president of the NSW Teachers Federation Maurie Mulheron spoke with great passion on that injustice. The chasm between education systems both segregates and polarises our society.

Some of the money, such as that spent on chaplains, may also be unconstitutional.

One of the most important aspects of the day’s discussion, however, was affirming respect for people of private and virtuous faith. We must stand against the mere 12% who belong to fundamentalist movements that see the rest of us as an impediment to their goals.

Chys Stevenson delivered the day’s most striking speech explaining the risk to our democratic project posed by the Christian Nationalist Right (or Christian Dominionism). She described this Americanisation of Australian politics as part of a “cancerous political ideology.” We have the protection from a soft coup by Christian authoritarians of a much stronger electoral system than the USA, but complacency, Stevenson warned, could nullify that advantage.

The Pentecostal movement is working to infiltrate government and public institutions; the intent is “gaining complete control.” And while the style of religion is foreign, it is growing. The New Apostolic Reformation group alone has 1,000 churches around Australia.

This “imposter Christianity,” quoting Professor Samuel Perry, is often antithetical to Christ’s teaching. It is radicalised to the point that, Stevenson explained, in many churches pastors can no longer preach the Sermon on the Mount without being attacked for being the rotten “woke.”

The Christian Nationalists that Stevenson depicted believe that End Times are close. This requires the purification of every person and nation on the planet to allow Christ’s return to rule. Purification entails constraining all lives: no reproductive rights and no sex outside sacred, heterosexual marriage. This allows no LGBTQIA+ existence at all. Women should be returned to the domestic space.

Stevenson described the Seven Mountains Mandate which intends all aspects of human society to be controlled by Pentecostal figures: education, religion, family, business, government/military, arts/entertainment and media. There is no obligation to be honest with the secular world about this intent or the methods used to achieve it. Everything is literal spiritual warfare. The secular world, including Christians who are not of their movement but most particularly Catholics, is often depicted as demonic. The movement is deeply antagonistic to First People’s cultures, and often segregationist in race terms.

Stevenson used UTS academic Jeremy Walker’s research into the Atlas Network and its affiliate “think” tanks in Australia where anti-climate action work is accompanied by culture war battles that amplify splits in society. The Atlas model of division was at work in the Voice referendum campaign, not least because the fossil fuel sector that funds so much of these junktanks’ work fears the alliance of First People with environmental campaigns.

Neither the paleolibertarians nor the Christian Nationalists have any interest in democracy. The former see it as an obstacle to the free market, while the latter sees it as an obstacle to imposing Biblical law. Stevenson recommended Clare Heath-McIvor’s insider revelations about the threat to the democratic project posed by this movement.

Stevenson’s speech built on Leslie Cannold’s depiction, in the preceding presentation, of how polarised Australian society is becoming. We are following the American route towards hyperpolarisation which cannot sustain the democratic experiment.

Dr Anna Halahoff from Deakin illustrated the degree to which far right lobbyists have pushed the Western Chauvinist cultural deployment of Christianity into our new school curriculum. Then education minister Alan Tudge’s revision to the proposed Australian history curriculum ended up reducing content covering First People by one third, replaced by greater emphasis on our “Christian heritage.” Tudge has no record of being on the Orban speaking tour like too many Liberal Party alumni, but he was apparently filtering the fascistic politics through from the network.

Van Badham spoke with passion, and some trepidation, about her adult embrace of Catholicism. She depicted her faith as integral to her commitment to social justice and her wellbeing. Badham described secularism as a vital bulwark against the authoritarian Christians who pervert her faith, damaging believers as much as people of no religion.

The scandal emerging from Florida in recent days is indicative of the forces at work in the Christofascist right. Christian Ziegler is the state party chair of the Republican Party and a staunch ally in Governor Ron DeSantis’s war on “woke,” with constant assaults on both straight women’s and LGBTQIA+ safety within the state. His wife Bridget Ziegler was a co-founder of the hate group Moms for Liberty that has bedevilled American schools and libraries with anti-LGBTQIA+ aggression.

The fact that the Zieglers have been in an open marriage with another woman, including allegedly lesbian activity by Bridget, followed by an accusation of rape and physical harm of that third party by Christian, exposes the rot at the heart of this kind of politics. Families and individuals are leaving Florida and similar states for their own safety. People have been driven to suicide. Others are living with the mental distress of being targeted for outsider status by this neofascist crusade. The hypocrisy, however, is standard.

True Christians and people of other faiths who live inspired by their belief and its moral code are utterly different from these neofascists.

We must work together for mutual protection.


This essay appeared in an abbreviated form in Pearls and Irritations as Christian Nationalists versus the rest.

Conference sponsors:

The NSW Teachers Federation

The Secular Association of NSW

Humanists Victoria

National Secular Lobby

Rationalist Society of Australia

Plain Reason

Humanists Australia


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When there’s a clash of faith, which ‘religious freedom’ takes priority?

Under the Morrison Government’s proposed Religious Freedom bills, what happens when there’s a clash of religious belief? Of all the religions and faiths subscribed to in this vast nation, which freedom will take priority when head to head at the service desk of a hotel, the pharmacist’s counter, or proselytizing on social media? Whose beliefs will take precedent above all others in the fight of the rights? How will the correct order of religious freedom be determined? Will there be a duel at dawn? A water walking competition? A zealous race to see whose dead prophet will rise the fastest?

What if the faith holders both attempt to pull rank when refusing the other service? Will they quote chapter after verse after testament until the glorious reigning mighty religious bigwigmen intervene to give the supposedly correct doctrine?

Will secular courts be required to determine the true interpretation of the holy books and scribes and scrolls, when even religious scholars can’t agree, or will they defer to the religious overlords, thus enshrining religious tenets into the common law?

What if a nasty pasty says something vile and unconscionable to a random stranger on the street and asserts their legal right to do so because ‘religious belief’? Will they have to prove they’re religious, or will their word simply do? Is there a waiting period before a person can make a defense of ‘religious freedom’ to a claim of discrimination against them? Or can they claim to have found their faith and converted to religion a mere three minutes before flinging an unprovoked slur at a person for simply being?

Is there an assumption of religiosity whenever someone speaks the words of a bigot? Will the onus of proof fall on the defendant to a claim of discrimination that they, in fact, have ‘faith’ and their faith, by its very nature, requires them to treat others as lesser people because of who they are?

What if the atheists chime in & heckle from the sidelines, asserting their protected right to call the warring factions religiloons and faithofarts? Will there be a three-way claim of discrimination and counter-discrimination and third party claimants and respondents and additional parties from each particular school of religious thought, all claiming to be the religiously righteous superior and thus the absolute protected by the law?

Will the entire farce collapse into a cringe-worthy public slag fest, transcribed carefully by the court, of “you are”, “your mum is”, and “that’s what she said” between the religious and believers and atheists and anyone who is otherwise not one of the protected species under any respective religious code?

How will Morrison manage the fallout from the proposed bill on social inclusion and community cohesion and assimilation and mental health and general feelings of happiness, fulfillment and the enjoyment of people to participate fully in public life, while also exercising their personal freedoms to bodily autonomy and accessing appropriate medical care?

Will Morrison demand tolerance and respect and fairness, while women, people of colour, racial minorities, people with a disability and LGBTIQA+ Australians are actively being denied services and publicly shamed, slandered and humiliated?

What further laws will Morrison rush through parliament when atheists, joined by any empathetic, loving and open-hearted religious folk, protest on the streets to denounce the positive rights of the religious to discriminate against them, their friends and families? Will he call in the military? Will he pray? Will he command the nation join him in prayer while the military confiscates padlocks, gaffa tape and glue?

What if? What if? What if?

What if Morrison and his merry band of religious zealots actually recognised and respected human rights, and instead of a knee-jerk reaction to appease the haters who think it’s their god-given right to impose their fundamentalist, extremist beliefs on the rest of the population, he proposed a bill to protect everyone from harm?


Morrison and his government are more concerned about the hurt feelings of a bunch of rotten losers than the real, demonstrated harm even the debate on ‘religious freedom’ is causing in the community.

But bets on who will be the first to cry foul when it’s religion up against religion, up against yet another religion, and maybe another religion (because who knew, even the religious types can’t agree on if there is one almighty supernatural creator or many) and then add in the atheists who will surely exercise their newly reinforced right to fiercely criticize religion and religious belief …


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The tearing down of our social fabric

Yesterday Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells addressed the National Press Club on conservatism in contemporary Australian society.

According to the Senator, she, and her views, represent the silent majority of Australians who she seems to believe are made up of elderly God-fearing people, many of whom can’t speak English.

“My views are those of the silent majority … I reflect contemporary Australia today.”

Ms Fierravanti-Wells informed us that the most important things to Australians are family, religion, family values and tradition.

She quoted census figures to show how many people came from non-English speaking backgrounds saying their conservative views must be considered in policy making.

But what the Senator chose to ignore is that 22% of all Australians stated they had no religion at the 2011 census – an increase of 6.8% over the previous decade. In 2011, almost a third of people aged 20 years and over with a postgraduate degree reported no religion (31%). Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest rates of people reporting no religion (both 29%), just ahead of South Australia (28%). New South Wales, the Senator’s home state, had by far the lowest rate (18%).

Predictably, Fierravanti-Wells is fervently against same-sex marriage and insists that she is representing the mainstream view in her strident opposition. She dismisses the polls showing overwhelming majority support for marriage equality because all those elderly non-English speaking constituents of hers don’t take part in the polls.

Speaking in Parliament in 2012 she said “This is not about equality; it is about the tearing down of our social fabric.”

“I reject the assertion that those who argue for the retention of the definition of marriage are somehow homophobic, bigoted or are opposing equal rights. It is about maintaining a tradition—a tradition that has been the bedrock of our communities, our society and the world as we know it.

The silent majority in this country does not support this change. Indeed, there are many people who are in gay relationships who themselves do not support gay marriage. Their views have also been drowned out by the vocal gay marriage minority.

Marriage is not only a civil union but has also always been traditionally a religious ceremony; whether in the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or any other faith. It is a religious act that glorifies the significant union between a man and a woman. An important part of the marriage journey is the public vows that a man and a woman make to each other before their God which commits them to each other for the rest of their natural lives.

I doubt that most people who are pushing these amendments are overly religious or even intend on staying in a monogamous relationship, which begs the question: why do they want to get ‘married’? The chattering classes do not want to concede that, by amending the Marriage Act, they are in fact denying the rights of the silent majority who want to uphold the sanctity and true meaning of marriage and who want to keep some tradition going in a world that seems to be forever throwing out the old and bringing in the new.”

Connie, Connie, Connie – where to begin?

One in three marriages end in divorce with an average length of 10.7 years, not even long enough to raise the kids, so I don’t think we can attribute the stability of our society to marriage.

You quoted a Chinese proverb to defend your insistence that marriage must be between a man and a woman:

‘When there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world.’

You purport to defend diversity and promote inclusion yet you want to deny this love, harmony, contentment, prosperity and peace to the LGBTI community.

Public support to legalise same-sex marriage is continuing to rise, with latest polling showing that 68 per cent of voters support gay marriage with 25 per cent opposed.

The poll found that 57 per cent of Coalition voters support gay marriage compared with 74 per cent of Labor voters and 90 per cent of Greens voters.

Connie says her own research in marginal seats indicates that ethnic and religious communities will turn on the government if a conscience vote is allowed.

The poll finds 71 per cent of voters born in Australia support gay marriage while support is 60 per cent among those born overseas.

Women (74 per cent) are more supportive than men (63 per cent) while support also fades with age.

Could I suggest that, far from representing the majority, the Senator is trying to impose her minority view on the electorate. Perhaps if she expanded her circle beyond elderly male migrants she meets at church in marginal seats she may understand that the “chattering classes” include most of her constituents.

Also, it is factually incorrect to say that marriage has “always been traditionally a religious ceremony.”

With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required.

As part of the Protestant Reformation, the role of recording marriages and setting the rules for marriage passed to the state, reflecting Martin Luther’s view that marriage was a “worldly thing”.

In England, under the Anglican Church, marriage by consent and cohabitation was valid until the passage of Lord Hardwicke’s Act in 1753. This act instituted certain requirements for marriage, including the performance of a religious ceremony observed by witnesses.

In England and Wales, since 1837, civil marriages have been recognized as a legal alternative to church marriages under the Marriage Act 1836. In Germany, civil marriages were recognized in 1875.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells is offended when people label her homophobic. Why ever should they think that when she stereotypes supporters of marriage equality as godless sluts?

During her press club address, our Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs also suggested that Muslims have to “own the problem” of terrorism and the radicalisation of our kids and they have to “own the solution”. Your fault, you fix it? Nothing to do with us? Kids unable to get jobs and feeling victimised in their own society are not our concern?

Ms Fierravanti-Wells did a fair bit of trumpet blowing, reminding us that she has been “double-hatted” and “roundly applauded” for her frankness. She said she represents the “base” of the Liberal Party and feels it unfair when described as being from the hard right. She offers herself as proof of how successful a “wog” can be and speaks of the hurt she has endured when people can’t pronounce her name or make mafia jokes about her property in Umbria.

I wonder if she has ever considered the hurt felt by people who are told they are unnatural because of who they love or those who are ‘blamed’ for terrorism as their children are seduced, their homeland destroyed, and their families killed.

You seem very confident that your views are ‘mainstream’ and that you wield significant influence over policy but a word of warning Senator, it seems your party may have other ideas.


What extremism, Australia?

The Federal Government has made quite clear its belief that Australians are at risk from extremists. It is so concerned about the threat of fundamentalists influencing young minds, it sanctioned the well-publicised anti-radicalisation booklet to be distributed in schools around the country. Whether this belief is founded, rational and based on admissible evidence appears irrelevant to the ruling class.

There is no doubt that fundamentalism, extremism and radicalised youth may, potentially, one day, if all circumstances and opportunities align, be a threat. However while the Government is focussing its attention on examples that conflict with its ideology, organisations of a specific religious persuasion are confidently and quite publicly corrupting and indoctrinating the minds of Australian children.

For not the first time, certain Christian organisations have been caught out inflicting their own warped idea of how society should function, on Australian youth. Under the guise of ‘religious education’ in the classroom, these apparent moral arbitrators are teaching teenagers the kind of stuff that would be funny, if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

According to the latest news, young Australians are being taught to “thank God for cancer” and that cancer is “the result of a mucked-up and broken world caused by sin.”

Religious instructors in New South Wales’ schools are allegedly teaching that “being sick or having your period isn’t a sin — but it reminds us that the body and therefore all of humanity now live with the curse of sin.”


In 2015, teenagers are being instructed that female menstruation is a sign of humanity being cursed with sin?

As if this isn’t extreme (and bizarre) enough, children in state funded, public schools, have been told that “wives should submit to their husbands in everything’’ and to “be prepared to die for God.”

This is not the eighteen hundreds. It is not even 1950. This is the stuff being taught in the twenty-first century.

The latest fundamentalist Christian teachings follow an instance earlier in the year where young teenage students in Victorian state schools were “warned not to have multiple sex partners or risk becoming like overused sticky tape.”

According to these religious instructors, clearly experts in the human body and reproductive organs, “a chemical released in females’ brains made them more needy than boys”, and having multiple sexual partners can break a “special chemical bond”, and “harm a woman’s capacity to form future relationships.”

None of these teachings will be news to those who endured a private Christian schooling. However this is not being taught in Christian schools, where parents and students expect a level of religious indoctrination and propaganda, but in public schools, in many cases without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

Some Christian groups are insistent on their right to teach harmful and dangerous anti-gay and anti-divorce messages. There appears to be no concept of the damage any of these teachings have on the wider community and vulnerable people targeted by the hate messages.

Why are these people not more loudly and publicly condemned?

Is it because these religious instructors are largely white, middle-classed, conservative Australians?

Is it because they share the same cultural heritage as a vast majority of the population?

Is it because we are so attuned to thinking extremism and fundamentalism corresponds with brutal, physical violence that we ignore the damage these disturbing teachings are having on society?

This year, the New South Wales Government demonstrated its full support of Christian indoctrination, inferring that Christian studies were mandatory by including it in a listing of ‘core subjects’. The Federal Government has made it clear that it will only support religious chaplains in schools to ‘support’ young people with ethical and moral dilemmas.

No doubt the supporters of this absurdity proclaim that Christian fundamentalism is not a threat to Australian society. Australia was, after all, founded on Christian principles when the British arrived in 1788 and set about brutally murdering the local Indigenous population in an attempt to annihilate the race.

But these kinds of so-called Christian teachings do immense damage.

These Christian organisations, endorsed in many public schools, are teaching the next generation that women must submit to their husbands, that women are inferior, that living with a partner unmarried is a sin, that basic bodily functions which almost half the entire world population experience or have experienced, is a sign of sin.

These Christian so-called educators, mainly volunteers who have been welcomed into state schools, are instructing that gay people are unnatural, that children will be harmed if they do not live within the confines of a heterosexual marriage with their biological mother and father.

Domestic violence is a massive issue for Australia. So far, 69 women have been murdered in 2015, many by husbands and partners.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found prolific, repeated and systematic cover-up of rapes, sexual assaults and child abuse going back decades. Many of those exposed as perpetrators and protectors are religious organisations, and many are Christian denominations.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex Australians have the highest rates of suicidality, (the risk of suicide) of any population in Australia. Same-sex attracted people have up to fourteen times higher rates of suicide attempts than heterosexual Australians, with young same-sex attracted Australians having rates up to six times higher than their peers.

Each year, several thousand Australians take their own lives, the vast majority male. The two key factors for whether a person will experience suicidal ideation is if that person is experiencing both depression and if they feel socially undesirable. It is not inconceivable that dangerous messages taught in schools about gender roles, sexual orientation and health play a part in feelings of social desirability.

The Christian values of love, compassion, inclusion, and forgiveness are sadly lacking from contemporary education, and appear to be replaced with socially divisive and grossly biased ideological messages.

Religion and religious influence is an important topic for children to learn about. People, insistent that their personal religious beliefs hold supremacy, are responsible for wars, genocide and brutal massacres of indigenous cultures and races. Religion is used as an excuse for many atrocities, discrimination, and the deliberate exclusion of certain people in society.

All people have a right to religion, but that does not include the right to force religion onto others. It does not include the right to indoctrinate the young and impressionable. It does not include forcing personal spiritual beliefs onto the wider community.

Earlier this year the Victorian Government announced that it had scrapped religious instruction from school curriculums from 2016, instead replacing with classes that address domestic violence and respectful relationships. This is a far more productive way of addressing the real issues facing young Australians.

Extremism has no place in schools, and this includes extremism which complies with the agenda of the Government.


Ode to Karen – Lyrics: Eva Cripps, performed by Kim.


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Religion… What is it good for?

On the latest available research approximately 84% of the world’s population identify themselves as believing in, (or at least being affiliated with) one religion or another. Yet as the world reels in shock at the latest brutal fundamentalist attacks I find myself drawn to question whether or not the religions of the world, as self described moral arbiters, are now (or have ever been) truly fit for purpose?

From the crusades to the inquisition, from the burning of witches to the ritual sacrifice of children, from the institutional pedophilia of the catholic church to the slaughter of young girls for the “crime” of learning to read, there can be little argument that human history is replete with a litany of barbarous acts carried out in the name of religion.

jesus to jail

But what is it about religious faith that drives some people to embark on murderous repressive rampages against their fellow human beings? Is it their faith that actually drives them, or are they simply consumed by homicidal fantasies and religion conveniently allows them to cloak their dark desires in a veil of piety?


Jonestown massacre – suicide

If religions are, as they claim, providing the moral structure and framework under which human societies can and should live, then how exactly are we supposed to interpret, understand and deal with the actions of those who repress, brutalise and kill predicated on the belief that it will please their God, (and/or secure them some lavish reward in the afterlife)?

Seriously, what traits and characteristics can we reasonably attribute to an entity (divine or otherwise) that would engage in, or be delighted by such atrocities? Because to my mind merciful, benevolent, loving, and kind are not topping the list.



Admittedly these are not new questions, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was posing such questions as far back as 300BC:

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither willing nor able? Then why call him a god?” Epicurus

But with 84% of the human family still adhering to the idea of a sentient, all knowing, personality based deity these questions remain just as relevant today as they were two to three thousand years ago.

As there has never been any definitive earthy proof as to the existence or form of God, it could be argued that each of us is free, within the bounds of our chosen faith, to define God in accordance with our own preferences. Even within the confines of a particular faith’s scriptures there is a smorgasbord of choices from which we can construct our own personal versions of God.

As a Christian you are free to choose the angry, vengeful, jealous God of Deuteronomy or the loving God of John 4:16 or Galatians 5:22-23.

As a Muslim you could go with the God of Quran 2:191, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing… or you could align your heart with the more moderate God of Quran 25:63: The worshipers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”


I have never met two people who have the exact same idea of who or what God is, and thus it appears to me that regardless of brand affiliations, God is pretty much what ever we want God to be. Kind of like the Subway sandwich of spirituality, we can put whatever we want into our God, and leave out or ignore any bits that aren’t to our taste.

But surely, if we are to assign responsibility for determining our ethical structures and moral conduct to a God, (or a set of scriptures, or a particular religion), then we need to be very wary of being seduced by our own subjective desires and interpretations.

twin tower pencils

If we accept the premise that any God we hold is actually a mirror reflection of our own preferences and tendencies, then how can we possibly use such a God or religion to accurately determine what is right or wrong without being swayed by our own predilections?

The fact is we can’t. With or without God, when it comes to determining what we hold to be right or wrong we are fundamentally on our own! What Gods and religions do seem to do for us however, (if we chose to interpret things that way), is grant us a free license to perform actions that are clearly harmful to others, blame our victims, and envelop ourselves in a shroud of moral righteousness and respectability while we are about it. It’s like the ultimate get out of jail free card.

That said, the search for absolute truth has always been difficult, and there are very few things that can be readily accepted by all peoples as unquestionably true, but I have managed to find a few. For example:

1.Human beings can not live in an atmosphere of liquid methane.

2.Human beings are not fish.

3. If you stop breathing you will eventually die.

4. If you do not eat you will eventually die.

5. You will eventually die.

Admittedly these “truths” are not really all that helpful when one is seeking to define indisputable parameters for righteous moral conduct, but then again on all evidence neither is God or religion!

No matter what we believe we all must take responsibility for our actions. If we go forth into the world with the will to harm others, then we need to understand that we are ultimately acting out the violence, hatred and defilements of our own hearts and minds. God and religion have nothing to do with it!

religion war

Religion and Politics

There is an old adage that warns we should never discuss religion or politics. It’s bizarre that two such influential aspects of our lives should be off-limits. The obvious implication is that, in these two areas, people’s minds are already made up and closed to any information, argument or change. Are we scared that our beliefs, under scrutiny, may be shown to be flawed? Are we unable to explain why we believe something, or hold a certain view, or support a certain religion or political party or policy? Are we unable to be tolerant and civil? Are we unwilling to learn? Is it heresy to question?

There is a growing dissatisfaction and feeling of disillusionment and disappointment with both religion and politics. To use the parlance of the day, their business model is broken. This is hardly surprising as they have allowed very little organisational change in hundreds of years.

We subsidise these two institutions to the tune of trillions of dollars every year. It’s time we demanded a productivity drive – changes have to be made. An efficiency dividend perhaps, or performance based payment? What is the return to stakeholders? If these were private companies, the entire board and management team would be sacked and new directions taken.

Experts warn that we are heading towards an apocalypse driven by climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation, overpopulation, and income inequity, yet our two greatest institutions seem intent on ignoring these challenges in favour of power and greed.

Religions spend an enormous amount of time and money on worship – to what end? Recently, Pope Francis said

“We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money. The world has become an idolator of this god called money.”

A noble sentiment no doubt, but somewhat hypocritical when, each and every week, some of the poorest Catholics around the world contribute to the church’s unbelievable wealth.

The Catholic Church, once all her assets have been put together, is the most formidable stockbroker in the world. The Vatican has large investments with the Rothschilds of Britain, France and America, with the Hambros Bank, with the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich. In the United States it has large investments with the Morgan Bank, the Chase-Manhattan Bank, the First National Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and others. The Vatican has billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, T.W.A., etc. At a conservative estimate, these amount to more than 500 million dollars in the U.S.A. alone.

The Vatican’s treasure of solid gold has been estimated by the United Nations World Magazine to amount to several billion dollars. A large bulk of this is stored in gold ingots with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, while banks in England and Switzerland hold the rest. But this is just a small portion of the wealth of the Vatican, which in the U.S. alone, is greater than that of the five wealthiest giant corporations of the country. When to that is added all the real estate, property, artworks, stocks and shares worldwide, then the staggering accumulation of the wealth of the Catholic Church becomes so formidable as to defy any rational assessment making it one of the wealthiest institutions on Earth.

Avro Manhatten, in his book The Vatican Billions, said

“Jesus was the poorest of the poor. Roman Catholicism, which claims to be His church, is the richest of the rich, the wealthiest institution on earth. (…) How come, that such an institution, ruling in the name of this same itinerant preacher, whose want was such that he had not even a pillow upon which to rest his head, is now so top-heavy with riches that she can rival – indeed, that she can put to shame – the combined might of the most redoubtable financial trusts, of the most potent industrial super-giants, and of the most prosperous global corporations of the world?”

Their wealth is so big that they could create sustainable social programs to end famine on Earth; they have the power and the means to oppose wars; they have the financial resources to create an Eco-friendly planet — the biblical heaven on Earth. But how could they be willing to invest in “green technology” when they have huge investments in fossil fuel industries? In fact, wars perfectly suit their financial investments.

The church’s failure to remain relevant to today’s society, with its preoccupation with power and wealth accumulation, its adherence to celibacy, and its refusal to allow women in positions of authority, make it reminiscent of eunuch guards protecting an ancient temple of gold.

“And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!” Revelation 18:16

Government is the other institution with the means and duty to protect us. We collectively invest our money, entrusting them to make decisions in our best interests. This is not a loan to be handed out to big corporations, nor is it to payroll jobs for your mates or to use on private jets and chauffeured limousines to go to “social networking” functions.

We should not have to pay more to give Gina Rinehart a tax free zone in which to make billions from developing our resources whilst repealing the mining tax that might give us some return for our patrimony to help pay for the damage her coal will cause to the planet. We should not have to rely on the largesse of big corporations to give us a fair return on our money and assets.

We should not have to pay for politicians to use Parliament as a theatrical stage. This isn’t a high school debate we are having. If it was, the behaviour would be far better, the arguments more coherent, the speech far more eloquent, and it would actually address the arguments for and against the specific point. Each side would listen carefully to each other and try to find flaws in the opposition’s proposition. Real flaws, based on facts, not on personalities or spin.

“Chamber sitting” is a total waste of time. Speeches are ignored, question time is a debacle, debate is stage-managed or gagged, point-scoring by endless repetition is the mind-numbing methodology, and not one constructive thing is achieved other than voting on legislation, which could be done remotely.

Matters Not, an AIMN commenter with parliamentary experience, said

“The ‘common sense’ of Parliament is an historical hangover – relic of a past time when face-to-face communications was the only option. At one level it’s now a joke. But while voting can be done from afar the ‘socialising’ and ‘politicking’ cannot.”

Is this really what we are paying them for?

The amount of time and money that is wasted on polls, advertising, image consultants, spin doctors and message control is staggering. Hundreds of millions are spent by politicians on making themselves popular so they can get re-elected. What a fraudulent waste of our taxpayer money.

Tony Abbott’s expense entitlements as Opposition leader were over $1,000,000 each year. These include travel and office costs. When you consider all the parliamentarians, entitlements add up to a huge amount of money. I wonder how much we would save if the Finance Department had to approve all expenses before purchase and have them pay the bill rather than periodically accepting spurious claims for reimbursement from every MP. Perhaps better still, increase an MP’s salary by a specified amount and make them pay for everything from their own pocket. Bet that would put paid to weddings, private jets, trips to sporting events with your daughters, and custom made bookcases. It might also put people like Mark Textor and Peta Credlin out of a job making way for staff with useful expertise.

The official Federal Parliament website states that

“the most important change (to the Westminster system) since 1867 has been the growth of the party system. Nearly all members of the lower houses are now elected as representatives of political parties. Party discipline in all the parliaments has been greatly strengthened, and in some of the parliaments it is almost unknown for an MP to fail to support the agreed party position-that is, the position agreed by a majority of the parliamentary party. In some of the parties, an MP may be expelled from the party for failing to support the party line.”

In the last 150 years the most important change has been to form gangs that stifle debate and disenfranchise their members under threat of excommunication? The party system has become corrupt, susceptible to manipulation by wealthy donors, factional bullying, preselection and preference deals.

Imagine if we elected people on merit rather than party affiliation. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if each individual MP voted for what was best on the basis of expert advice and informed debate rather than being told how to vote to best serve your party’s donors. Gina can’t fund everyone’s campaign – well she could, but bribing 145 people is a lot harder than just bribing the leader of one party.

Our Parliament is hamstrung by archaic ceremony and tradition. This is very costly and extremely unproductive. In the 21st century surely we can come up with a better system.

So I say to our religious and political leaders, lift your game!

Religions of the world should remember that their core beliefs are basically the same and there should be interdenominational co-operation to preach and practice charity, tolerance, peace, and love.

“O mankind! We made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).” (The Qur’an 49:13)

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 “

Politicians need to reminded of their job. They are our guardians given temporary stewardship of our wealth to provide for all Australian citizens and to fulfil our global responsibility as a prosperous nation. It is NOT their job to increase the wealth of a few at the expense of the many while spending every moment campaigning for re-election.

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Today’s Reading is From The Book of Lawson: “No Climate Change!” Amen.

“Mr Howard said he was an “agnostic” on climate science and he preferred to rely on his instinct, which told him that predictions of doom were exaggerated.”

So there ya go!

It’s all settled. Mr Howard’s “instinct” tells us that the gloom and doom is exaggerated. And that should be enough for anyone. After all, wasn’t this the man whose instinct led the Liberals to four election victories before the electorate got it wrong and he became the second Prime Minister to lose his seat? Who needs so called experts when we have instinct to go on.

I’m inclined to agree. People have a natural tendency to exaggerate. A friend of mine told me that his doctor had warned him that if he didn’t change his lifestyle he wouldn’t see his 75th birthday. “Then the wanker told me that with my blood pressure as high as it was, I could be dead tomorrow. I mean, how ridiculous. That was over three weeks ago, and I’m still here. Do you want another drink?”

But I digress. We’re talking about Mr Howard’s speech which was entitled: “One Religion is Enough.” (I realise that some of you godless, heathen lefties may be mumbling that one is too many, but show the man some respect. He was our Prime Minister. and he wasn’t the sort of PM to have sandwiches thrown at him!) And he’s right about the notion that climate change is like a religion – some of those greenies treat the planet like it’s something to be worshipped rather than a resource to be exploited.

It’s not like the man is solely relying on his “instinct”. He has read a book by Nigel Lawson on the subject. Some argue that one book is not enough. But Howard said that he read it twice. Surely that makes him well qualified to speak on the subject.

Yes, I know. You lefties are probably saying, “Who’s Nigel Lawson?” Well, for your information, not only was he the chancellor in Thatcher’s Government – reason enough to admire him – but he is also the father of Nigella Lawson, that wonderful host of Nigella Bites and the writer of many, many cookbooks.

Of course it does seem to me that there are parrallels between Nigella and her father here. The same zealots who want to close down the economy because of some climate change scare will try to tell you that Nigella’s cooking is unhealthy and far too fatty. Ask yourself, who has the bias – nutritional experts or the host of a TV cooking show? I think you’d all agree that nutritional experts all have an interest in having food declared unhealthy. It’s their way of obtaining funding from the government. Would they like us all to stop eating? What would happen to the economy then, eh?

Lawson’s book (that’s Nigel’s not Nigella’s) makes mention of the fact that there was no warming between 2001 and 2007. It’s also rumoured that the updated version has the spectacular news that there was actual cooling in between August 2012 and October 2012 in England, as well as a spectacular drop of seven degrees in just one day in a village in Shropshire.

So, by reading Lawson’s book – twice – Mr Howard is well qualified to lecture us on climate science. So we should really take notice when he says:

“The ground is thick with rent-seekers. There are plenty of people around who want access to public money in the name of saving the planet.

“Politicians who bemoan the loss of respect for their calling should remember that every time they allow themselves to be browbeaten by the alleged views of experts they contribute further to that lack of respect.”

I’m not sure why their views are “alleged” though. Is this because there’s no proof that what they’re saying is their actual view? I guess that’s true of everyone. Perhaps we should add the alleged bit in front of everything a person says. For example, “Mr Hockey said that he allegedly believes that there’s an alleged confidence returning to the alleged community.”

We all know that the only scientists who can be trusted on this issue are the ones who aren’t getting their funding from the (alleged) government. Mr Howard was in government for years – he must (allegedly) know how easily governments are fooled. No, the only trustworthy scientists are those who go out and get their funding from multinational companies who fund their (alleged) research out of an altruistic desire to find the truth.

But there are a couple of things that troubled me about the title of Mr Howard’s speech: If one religion is enough, which religion is going to be? If it’s Christianity, does that include all denominations?

And will atheism be banned?