Liberals and Atheists

Picturing everyone naked again..

Picturing everyone naked again..

There are many times I consider writing a brief rant about something, but by the time I formulate one I realise its not substantial enough for its own post. Instead, I’m giving you all a HOST of rants, all put together. Efficiency, no?

First and foremost this week is the Liberal Leadership Spill. It ended up being a massive non-event, but the lead-up itself stoked my ire incomprehensibly.

This populist indecisiveness of the Rudd/Gillard ALP years was used as a major campaign point by the LNP, and yet less than 18 months later the stories abound that the Libs were about to do the same.

Not having had internet at home for the past 3 weeks has seen me watching far too much ABC News 24 and other rubbish, from 7AM onwards. Considering myself neutral when it comes to perceived ABC bias, the past few weeks have shown me that it does actually exist, in SPADES. This has been frustrating enough, but perhaps what caused me the most ire was the revelling taking place on the left side of Australian politics – and not because I’m a cynic who hates their populist social media politics (although I am).

I was watching Sunrise (yes, I know, appalling, but the SuperBowl was going to be on afterwards) and that icon of hard hitting journalism, Sam Armytage, asked Scott Morrison how he would vote if there WAS a spill, FIVE TIMES IN A FUCKING ROW. Sure, the question was worded slightly different every time, becoming more and more hypothetical, but it was the same question. Over on ABC 24 it was exactly the same.

The Liberal Party could have used this opportunity to institute some absolutely horrible policies and I can almost guarantee the media wouldn’t have asked them about it, and barely reported it, if at all – such was their focus during this time.

Then on social media there were a host of what I consider intelligent people, sending tweets out at up to THREE EVERY FIVE MINUTES speculating and celebrating the supposed upcoming collapse on the Liberal side. The spill was happening, in their pants. (I’m hilarious, I know)

I’m all for schadenfreude – in fact it’s one of my favourite types of freude, but this celebration of mutual mediocrity astounds me. It was a celebration of ‘oh yes! The other side is just as shit as we are’ instead of ‘oh my god what the fuck is happening to Australian politics?’.

Not only that, but wouldn’t the left rather face Tony Abbott at the next election? His record is horrible, he’s on the nose, he is – in the eyes of most, even conservatives – a dead man walking. Why would the left want to celebrate a) not having the chance to personally oust him themselves as a one term PM and b) the right installing a more voter-friendly candidate who would almost definitely salvage their prospects at the next election? In the instance of either Turnbull OR Bishop, I have no doubt the LNP would still be in charge after the next election.

Ultimately, it ended up being the biggest non-event in recent history. While the results haven’t been immediate, the outcome has vaguely shown the LNP a step above the ALP, at least in terms of unity. Whether that will translate to the polls remains to be seen.

I mean, as bad as Tony Abbott is, is Bill Shorten really the man to lead? No – and even if he IS elected PM, one can imagine that the first bad poll will see him ousted for Tania Plibersek. It showed us a little bit about the Liberal Party (although I could see the outcome from a mile off), but it showed us just as much, if not a little bit more, about the ‘socially conscious’ left – and what it showed us wasn’t good.

I probably should have prefaced this article with the disclaimer that I have never voted for the Liberal Party in my life. Make of that what you will.

GETTING BOARD WITH ATHEISM 

Doing the rounds on social media this week has been a billboard, designed and paid for by Sydney Atheists, asking people ‘Have you escaped religion yet? We have!’, with a link to the atheist foundation. It’s been shared a multitude of time by those free-thinking individuals on Facebook – because that’s where they all go, right?

Soooooo clever.

Soooooo clever.

Time for another preface – I don’t believe in God, even though I went to a Catholic school.

First of all, the billboard is horribly worded. Religion and spirituality, belief and faith, they are, in themselves, not bad facets of humanity. Hell, they must provide something if they’ve been around this long. The primary problem I hear from atheists is with ORGANISED religion – but of course it’s hard to put the word ‘organised’ in there, next to links for ORGANISATIONS of atheists. The (not very) funny thing is that a quick search on Google for ‘atheist billboard’ shows that there are a HOST of them, many with a better and more eloquent message, like this one.

A quick browse of their site takes you to their goals, vision, and mission, which include engaging the wider community, ‘educating’ the community (in other words, telling them what WE believe and why we’re right), the freedom to practice, to provide a community for atheists. They also list values like respect, compassion, goodwill, inclusiveness, diversity – it all sounds very familiar but I can’t remember where I’ve heard ideals like this before… hmm… 

They state clearly that they are a non-profit organisation, but accept donations to ‘help us carry out advocacy and education programs’, such as buying a billboard to help further their message, it seems. You can even become a member of an ORGANISATION of atheists for $20 a year. Wouldn’t you know it, the Sydney branch is part of an international alliance, committed to the same values.

A quick trip to the international site shows you that they have a whole range of merchandise with clever slogans which you can wear or stick on your car, much like a religious person does.

And I guess that’s my problem with it all. By trying to take a stand against the influence of religion in public and personal life, this group of Atheists have taken the same methods. There’s a heavy level of irony in an institution that claims to be above organised religion and its methods, while engaging in them as well.

When I did my time in Catholic school I was inundated with propoganda, sure -religion was a compulsory subject – but I was never told ‘you must believe this’, or that I needed to go out and aggressively defend, or even advertise, the values I was taught there.

The aggressive proponents of certain religions aren’t that way solely because of said religion. They’re that way because whatever they’ve chosen to believe has been shaped by a whole host of influences on the individual, such as their temperament, upbringing, family, friends and social influences, and the way they see the world.

Are even 1% of the people I went to school with staunch defenders of religion, forcing their opinions down people’s throats, or even preaching on social media? No. Do they go seeking confrontation with those who disagree with them? No.

I’m not, for a moment, denying that there are people out there exactly like that – because there are – but I see just as many, if not more atheists ‘aggressively’ advertising/defending their values and beliefs (or lack of, as they would call it) in the modern world than I do ultra-conservative religious types.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. I consider myself an atheist, but I do not identify with the advertising and methods of what is becoming organised atheism. I do not feel the need (not for a long time, anyway) to engage with people who believe something in an attempt to make myself feel smart while being condescending. All I see with a billboard advertising atheist organisations is another step towards everything they claim to be against. Isn’t the whole point of atheism to be against establishing collectives of shared ideals? If it was put up to gain new members, then atheism is slowly moving towards its own church. If it was put up to get a rise out of religious people, it just shows how fickle some atheists are.

Off the top of my head I’ve already come up with a better slogan – ATHEISM: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. It underscores a succinct message that I think really sums up what atheism is, or should be, about. Atheism to me is the realisation that the only thing that can make a difference in your life is yourself. If I believed in hell I’d probably be a much nicer person, though…

The separation of church and state is a great idea to push as well, BUT IT’S BEEN AROUND FOR CENTURIES. In a theocratic state like Iran, organised atheism would have far more of a purpose to serve than here.

I’ve read over the ‘Dublin Declaration’, which is seemingly an atheist constitution. The very first statement, 1A, is that ‘freedom to practice religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights and freedoms of others’. It’s been the first clause in previous declarations as well. I can get behind that, but do intelligent atheists really need to have it spelled out? Some of them need to practice what they preach, that’s for sure. Fighting with religious people ‘because they started it’ shows a level of pedantry that belies your supposed intelligence. Fighting with religious people just for fun shows a level of pedantry that proves you’re a dickhead.

I know I’m oversimplifying the issue, but I think many modern-day champions of atheism are doing exactly the same. I’m not here to debate the value or importance of religion in society, but for an organisation of people who believe the same thing to do so is a bit rich in my opinion.

Not Catholic Church rich, but still.

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