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Why have a Global Atheist Convention?

By David Nicholls - posted Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A humorous sub-title would be, '...and three days of silence'. Of course, in reality, that is not the case. There is a massive paradigm shift happening in all societies, especially in developed nations, where the taken-for-granted truths about supernatural origins are being critically questioned like no other time in history. As an example, the last Atheist Convention held in Melbourne in 2010 attracted over 2,500 people and the very recent Reason Rally in the USA gathered a crowd of around 20 thousand of the non-religious who stood in the rain to hear speakers expounding on what this shift in thinking means.

A demonstration of the fear this type of occurrence has implanted in the minds of conservatism is that media coverage in the USA was very dismal indeed. In Australia it was the same story. How many readers knew of it? A gathering of such numbers should have been headline news and it would have been even if it was the same number of basket-weavers. A greater reason for reporting such events is that in general, atheists and freethinkers tend to just get on with their lives and have not in the past, placed much value in mass demonstrations. Surely it is newsworthy that now, they do.

So why is this rise in atheism so dramatic, breaking the rule of live and let live, with it transforming into highly visible representations of the no-god mindset? A couple of decades ago this would have been unthinkable, and quite rude to boot. Those who put themselves out to be counted are the tip of a huge and ever growing iceberg of ordinary people to whom the penny has dropped that the existence of a god assertions just aren't true. This has produced a growing awareness that the many faults of religion are in need of exposing.


Atheism in itself is merely the recognition that there is no evidence for the supernatural claims of religions but there is a tendency to then follow the bouncing ball to discover that the many faiths negatively affect the lives of individuals, groups and nations. Even advanced societies afford privilege beyond representation to religion: in schools, in politics and in bedrooms. The idea that religion should not be criticised has until now worked very well in favour of keeping its coffers full and its adherents thick on the ground.

The trouble is, and it is religion's own fault, it has gone too far and ordinary citizens are balking at being a part of its support base, whether that is by taxation breaks or the unseemly indoctrination of young people in government schools.

Religion has attempted to keep women as a second class, it denies homosexuals equality, it prevents effective sex-education for the young, it encourages a them and us mentality, it would like to control women's fertility, it is against stem-cell research, it prevents the vast population who wants the ability to end it all if the pain is unbearable, and some of it is in total denial about evolution and would teach that to children. In a roundabout way, it does do the latter by allowing evolution-denying chaplains in state schools. They make up the main proportion of this more-than-misguided scheme introduced by John Howard.

Atheists and freethinkers who have before sat quietly by as all this has been going on are beginning to see that acquiescence to this unreasonable controlling force on their lives will no longer be tolerated. Folk who before kept quiet about their non-belief in a god are now wanting to make change in the polity for good and are questioning ideas that have become out-dated, some even dangerous. Powerful nations have nuclear and biological weapons and others are trying desperately to obtain them and still other groups are seeking these weapons of mass destruction to further religious ideology. Having anyone with their finger on the button that cannot separate fact from fantasy, reality from eschatological delusion, is an extant situation. It is not something that might happen. It is happening right now.

These are some of the thoughts that are driving a normally quiet demographic to stand up for sanity whilst it still can. These people are joining in numbers as that is one way to say to religion, "We do not approve and if you had a smidgeon of the moral fibre you constantly remind us of that you have, you shouldn't either." But, therein lays the problem. Religion is mainly interested in a morality based on the control of others with an obsession about the dangly and other bits between the legs. This narrow morality is supported by interpretation of scripture and tradition and not present-day empirical findings.

Religion is also very frightened by the 'new atheism' as it sees it threatening its reign of temporal privilege on Earth. It is thrashing around, name-calling atheists everything from communists to shrill speaking and militant fanatics and a whole host of other pluckings from an empty intellectual bag of desperation. If the faiths could act reasonably they would adjust their obvious flaws and become a part of humanity worth considering. But, unfortunately that is not one of the strong points of people who not only live a life in perpetual cognitive dissonance but whose sole ambition is to make everyone like them. At this point, just pick your religion, as most have this purpose in mind.


Atheism will never use force or coercion on the religious, as religion has done for centuries against atheists and still does in the more backward parts of the planet and, sadly, still in many modern parts of the planet. No, all we expect is that you stop abusing children with false fears and expectation of heaven or hell at a time when youngsters have no possible way to combat such nonsense. Yes, we are trying to be reasonable and ask that you teach children about the main religions, that there is no evidence for them, inform them of the various effects of cultural programming and, then, when they are mature of mind, allow them to choose one or none for themselves. This would be the decent way to go but, as I have stated, a faith-blinkered view allows such genuine ethical considerations to lose any of their deserved importance.

You can see by this essay, atheists at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention this month will have plenty to talk about. It will be done with looking at how reason over superstition is the only way forward for an already faltering humanity. It will discuss the implications of continuing down the same old road of make-believe, and all in attendance will have a great time doing it.

Are you one of those people who have been quiet for too long? If so, join us and be a part of the solution and not a looker-on, or worse, a part of the problem.

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About the Author

David Nicholls is the president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by David Nicholls

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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