Take Dr John Dickson, director of the Centre for Public Christianity and the author of Jesus: A Short Life. No please take him.
What's the point of writing a short life of Jesus - the new Testament is short enough, and pretty thread bare at that when it comes to biographical details, the historical record's even more barren, and when you get down to the nitty gritty, no one likes to actually mention or dwell on his brother James and how he might have been the result of a virgin birth as well (or did the mother of god actually act like a common person and have an ordinary birth?)
Guess it's a bit like Shakespeare, the less you know with any certainty, the greater the urge to write.
But enough of that. I never did understand theology, and anyway Dickson's main beef is that Faith no more does little good for society.
It's the usual tiresome stuff, as Dickson notes that people having 'no religion' have jumped from 6.7 per cent in 1971 to 19 per cent in 2006, with the young 'uns being particularly keen to abandon god. Jolly good, I say, and let's have more of it.
But of course Dickson's not happy with that kind of raw data. He wonders how many putting 'no religion' might actually be reticent true believers, and manages to claw back the figure to just five per cent who call themselves atheists. But wait, he digs up another survey that suggests atheists don't necessarily deny the existence of god. Yep, we could have a hundred per cent true believers if you look at the stats and assorted surveys in the right, Christian, branch-stacking ways.
Dickson doesn't seem worried about what god we might be talking about. Last I checked amongst sundry loon fundamentalists (especially those supported and endorsed by Elvis Costello, or is that Peter), it seems the Christian god is not the Islamic god, and it goes without saying neither god is the Hindu god, and of course Jews don't recognize Christ as god.
So what's an atheist to do? How many gods do we have to renounce? What about wiccans and those of the original Roman faith, who still believe in Zeus?
Zounds, it's tricky.
Anyhoo, after conclusively proving there are no atheists going the rounds in Australia, suddenly Dickson changes tack, and says we should all be terribly worried the churches are getting empty, because it's only the Christians who do charity work. (We might be hundred per cent believers in something metaphysical, but we have a Homer Simpson attitude to church. Well done The Simpsons).
It's only the Christians who volunteer! Funny and I thought that trawling through the charity bins at Vinnies (or the Sallies or wherever) and forking over a buck for a useless piece of junk was showing decent atheist respect for Christian charity.
Dickson can't get enough of the do gooders:
a particular preoccupation of the faithful. Whether trying to earn their way to heaven or (more likely) trying to embody the love they think God has for the world, believers tend to give more money away, run more soup kitchens, collect more aid for those in poor countries and gravitate more toward 'people professions' than those without religion.
Ah there's just one problem here Dr Dickson. We on the right (well I'm on the right just for the moment for the sake of the argument) understand that charity is useless socialistic nonsense of the worst Marxist kind. Give the poor a job (preferably in a match factory) and they can go out and buy things and stimulate the economy. Give the money to the rich and it will trickle down to the poor, boost the economy and we'll all float upwards. Nothing to do with religion, and nothing to do with god. It's just the free market at work, and doesn't it work well.
Charity is for mugs and fraudsters. (Or so it seems if you read the right and their views on dole bludgers and down and out loafers who don't deserve any charity when a kick in the pants, or the crutch would do the job).
As for religious institutions, there's a good reason few people want to be cooped up like penguins in a nunnery these days. It's a silly waste of a life. And there are even more good reasons why people don't want to get involved with churches, synagogues and mosques: (a) they can't be certain they'll pick the winner. Fancy spending your life dedicated to Christ, only to discover you needed to be at the mosque to pick up the virgins in the after life (and vice versa); (b) church is incredibly dull; and (c) the notion you have to be religious and a believer to be a do gooder concerned for humanity is a typically offensive, exclusivist Christian notion that really sticks in the throat and not even the Heimlich manoeuvre will get it out.
By the way did I mention we have a homosexual Catholic priest in the family? Nice guy, tends the flock, does his duty, has a warm relationship with his partner, and keeps his head down. Now no name, no pack drill, because if the Church found out, there'd be no doubt he'd be exorcised, but I'm not certain where he stands on an eternity of hell versus a life of loving and giving and sharing. I'm thinking a bit of non-Christopher Pearson manly loving in the real world has turned out to be his true calling.
But then more and more people are coming to understand that it's hard to believe in a talking snake (I know I'm as boring as Dr Dickson when I keep urging you to check out Bill Maher's Religulous, but please do, it's funny enough, and it collects together as decent a bunch of loons as you can find in a single digital file).
Still more unbelievers are coming to understand that maybe the conflicting, squabbling, contradictory and confusing voices emanating from everywhere in the name of assorted gods is not the way forward in sorting out this chaotic world.
There are many solutions to this. My own is to nuke the lot of them, all the true believers, sent them off to the rapture, and let Vishnu, the destroyer of worlds, sort them out.