The Religion Report and the Archbishop’s unnecessary persecution complex

22 10 2008

Most of what Archbishop Phillip Wilson of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference has to say in his statement about the axing of The Religion Report is sensible. He points out that according to the 2006 census, 70% of Australians identify themselves with a religion, which doesn’t imply that 70% of Australians are ululating fundies, but does suggest “in theory at least, seven in 10 people will have a nominal interest in seeing, hearing or reading about matters of religion.” He notes the following that The Religion Report appeared to have garnered among atheists and agnostics, judging by the online response to the axing of the programme. Religion is socially relevant, he argues, because it “calls for engagement with one’s neighbour, and in the Christian tradition from which I come, this has meant that for more than 2000 years, religion has been at the forefront of public discussion.”

I would add at this point that “engagement with one’s neighbour” hasn’t always taken on benign manifestations, as many an apostate, backslider or outgrouper who has lived to tell the tale can attest. Still, the Archbishop’s point stands. Religion is relevant to theists and non-theists alike, albeit (at least in some cases) for different reasons, and therefore it is newsworthy.

Therefore it merits the professional, journalistic treatment that Crittenden’s programme provided (well, most of the time). Read the rest of this entry »

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Kohn-descending: The Spirit of Things on secularism

16 12 2007

It strikes me that the most strident reaction to the recent work of atheism’s “Big Four” (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens) has come from so-called moderate or liberal theists. For example, Terry Eagleton produced a scathing critique of The God Delusion soon after its release, in the blog Stanley Fish writes for the New York Times he disparagingly refers to Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens as “The Three Atheists,” and earlier this year Archbishop Rowan Williams himself got stuck into Dawkins. Sean has already posted on Tom Frame’s attack on secularism in <i>The Australian</i>.

Closer to home, ABC Radio National’s Religion Report and Rachael Kohn of The Ark and The Spirit of Things have been quite hostile to atheism. Kohn demonstrates this admirably on a recent episode of The Spirit of Things, “Secular Alternative?,” which in spite of its title–yes, Rachael, “secular” and “atheist” have different meanings–turns out to be another vehicle for Kohn to bag (her strawman definition of) atheism, either directly or via those she interviews. Read the rest of this entry »