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E-Mails to the Editor: Another Good Year For Atheism?
By : Harold Hayward (North Turramurra, NSW)
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As readers of the major dailies will be aware, 2007 saw a sharp increase in atheistic rhetoric. This is perhaps not surprising with approximately one third of Australia’s population now professing no religious affiliation and many denying the existence of God. Much of this rhetoric has been directed against Christianity – seen as a softer target than Judaism or Islam which have a better chance of sheltering behind anti-vilification and anti-discrimination laws. The interest in atheism has been sparked, in part, by political debates over the public funding of religious schools and publicity over a proposal to establish an Islamic secondary school on the outskirts of south-western Sydney.

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Comments / Feedback
Ian and Marie Phillips
Thanks Harold
Well put.
I see in our local paper a similar trend with at least two local atheists appearing in print almost every week. There are several local christians who often appear in print too.
It's an encouragement to write more myself...
Barry Tattersall
Harold, please continue. Flesh out for us some appropriate "answers to these old canards".
Alan Matheson
Thanks Harold for the email.
To understand the sigificance of these best sellers,is to understand the context in which they are being written.(Hitchen's,"God is not Great"is by far the best and most entertaining read!)
That's where any effective hermeneutic has to begin.
In part they are a response to the aggressive,religious-political agenda of Christian right leaders such as DeLay,Falwel,Dobson,Robertson,Hagee and Ham.Their political agenda,tactics and funding is a wonder to behold!
These contributions from the skeptic and the atheist,are also part of the continuing,vigorous debate in the States on faith and politics:eg.Golberg,"The Rise of Christian Nationalism";Hedges,"American Fascists-The Christian Right and the War on America";Lindsay,"Faith in the Halls of Power",and probably the best and profoundly disturbing insight into Billy Graham's ministry,"The Preacher and the Presidents".
I fear Harold that if one wishes to engage in an exploration of the context,message and significance of faith,power and politics debate,then the pages of the Australian religious press is not a good place to start. Perhaps,on the other hand,the AC could set an example and strategically provide space for such an exploration.
Andrew Ball
Thanks Harold.
I'm all for a series of apologetics or hermeneutics to counter this rubbish. Mabye you'd like to author a series of short 'take-a-ways' for reflection - I'd be happy to post them on the Churches of Christ in NSW website.

Andrew Ball
Harold Hayward
Thanks for these responses. My letter was prompted by my irritation with many letters published in the secular press that are critical of the church I respect, and which reflect understandings of Christianity that are totally foreign to my perceptions. Atheism always gets a better hearing than Christian apologetic in the press, and some attempts at apology are not helpful.

For the reasons that I mentioned, I think we had an opportunity within Churches of Christ to make a unique contribution to the defence of the faith. Within the church generally, we seem to spend a lot of time not just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but worrying about the quality of the accommodation in third class, and admiring the better view of the stars we get from the fast rising stern.

Alan has raised a different perspective. I have not read the anti Christian right wing literature he refers to, but don’t doubt there have been abuses. But is the right wing Christian political movement in the U.S.A. a symptom or a cause? I’m sure an argument could be made that movements such as Falwell’s have arisen in response to perceptions of the growing influence of humanism and atheism.

I’m reminded of a question put to a Q & A column in a recent weekend paper. “How come Christian fundamentalists support right wing politics when Jesus was a leftie?” A respondent from Morling College (Baptist) suggested that Jesus was a conservative in accepting matters of law and morality but a leftie in denouncing the hypocrisy and duplicity of the religious establishment. Maybe ! But I’m not a fundamentalist.

I’m no expert on Christian apologetic either, just an irritated observer of current misconceptions, but I have penned a few thoughts and sent them off to Craig for his consideration and publishing if appropriate.

Harold Hayward

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