World Atheist Day


I have been inspired this week by the Pope’s visit and World Youth Day with its "pilgrims". Any fair ladies from Bath among them I wonder? And where is our nation’s Geoffrey Chaucer? As for the renaming of Australia as the "Great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit", it’s going to take a miracle to fit that on to a coin or stamp. But most of all I have been inspired by the Federal and State Governments coughing up $200 million for this event and not even asking for a cut of the profits from the t-shirts.

So I have gone into full scale planning for World Atheist Day. It will be held in Canberra on 25 July, 2010. Christmas in July, in the first year of the Emissions Trading Scheme. Take that, Dr Pell. I have renamed the country Terra Incognita in anticipation. Having made these announcements I can sit back at my keyboard and wait — I already have a cat to comfort me — confidently assuming that Kevin and Morris will have put the cheques in the mail so that I can get on with booking the plane for Richard Dawkins. He’ll be coming to run the event and hopefully rename the country Terra Australis.

I am also confident that while all the happy smiling young atheists — guitars slung over their shoulders in case they want to spontaneously burst into the singing of "Imagine" — are here, laws will be passed banning displays of religiosity anywhere in the nation.

No religious clothing, no religious singing in the centre of town, no passing out of pamphlets, no churches with silly slogans on notice boards, no use of the word "redemption" in sporting broadcasts. I get annoyed by these things, and as an atheist, I expect not to get annoyed during World Atheist Day. If I’m annoyed, someone will have to pay for it. I’m lobbying for a sort of Religiosity Tax on Pellisms. It should work, hopefully, like a Carbon Tax on emissions.

My only worry is that I can’t seem to tie Mr Rudd down to a firm date on which to begin casting out the snakes of superstition from Australia. I pitched an exclusive photo op with Dawkins when he arrives at the airport accompanied only by one of Dr Who’s assistants, but he muttered something about the religious vote, and some bloke called Fielding. Apparently, he also can’t see why we need to cast out superstitions quite so quickly. He thought half by 2050 was enough, and in any case, most of them could just be buried.

So the way ahead looks stony and hard. Not unlike the bed of the Murray River after global warming.

But am I down-hearted? Not me.

There were those who thought that John Howard would rule as long as Robert Menzies, and that we would never sign the Kyoto Protocol. Yes, there were those who thought we would never again have a PM who wasn’t an honorary member of the Exclusive Brethren, that we would never again have television screens free of Big Brother.

But they were wrong.

I know that faith can move mountains of coal, and that somewhere in the desert is a bush that can burn forever without consuming itself, constantly being renewed. There must be a metaphor in there somewhere.

So all you atheists out there, the silent majority as I like to think of you, start hoarding your Peter’s Pence and booking your transport! Fishing boats will have to do, I’m afraid, as you won’t be able to afford air fares by then, and you won’t have some rich organisation behind you.

There may not be a big increase in financial wealth in Canberra as a result of World Atheist Day but there will certainly be a huge increase in brain power. Mr Rudd could put them to work on global warming and who knows, we might witness a renewal of faith in renewables. Hallelujah!

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.